Sunday, January 18, 2009
Alaska U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski Seeking Presidential Pardon For Ted Stevens; Bush Should Also Pardon Ignacio Ramos And Jose Compean
On January 19th, 2009, the Anchorage Daily News and KTUU Channel 2 report that Alaska U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski has asked the White House to pardon former Senator Ted Stevens. Michael Brumas, Murkowski's communications director, said the pardon request was made earlier this month, but declined to provide other details.
But the Department of Justice says that as of Friday January 17th, no one had made an application for a pardon on the Senator's behalf with the Office of Pardon Attorney, according to Laura Sweeney in the department's Office of Public Affairs. Sweeney conceded that Murkowski could have made a direct appeal to Bush, bypassing the pardon attorney.
It is not believed that Stevens originated the request. A number of people close to Stevens, including former Governor Bill Sheffield, have stated that Ted Stevens has not asked for a pardon. Perhaps Stevens is concerned that accepting a Presidential pardon could undermine the appeal of his October 27th conviction on seven felony charges of failing to disclose gifts and services he received from 2000 to 2006. Stevens is asking for a new trial, alleging prosecutorial misconduct, juror misconduct and other issues. A hearing is scheduled in February, but would be rendered moot by a pardon.
Alaska's other senator, Mark Begich, has not joined in the request, but has said that Ted Stevens shouldn't serve jail time. The Constitution grants the president nearly unlimited discretion in asserting his power of pardon and clemency. But there is little time remaining before Barack Obama is due to be sworn into office in ceremonies that begin at 10 a.m. Tuesday. It is believed that George W. Bush might be more sympathetic towards pardoning Stevens than Obama; indeed, with the flap over Obama's successor in the U.S. Senate, Obama might be even more reluctant to pardon a "convicted felon" than he otherwise would.
Powerful justification exists for a pardon. First, the sheer magnitude of Ted Stevens' 40 years of dedicated service to Alaska far outweighs what are, for all practical purposes, little more than a series of glorified bookkeeping errors. Second, the judicial process attendant to Stevens' case has become so irrevocably tainted as to be unsalvageable; at the very least, a new trial is essential to restore integrity to the process. The following Anchorage Daily News stories reveal how deeply the process was contaminated:
-- U.S. appeals judge's order in Stevens case
-- Stevens trial judge demands answers from Mukasey
-- Stevens prosecutors admit error
-- Details of FBI agent's complaint revealed
Dan Fagan also agrees that Ted Stevens should be pardoned, and posts his justification on The Alaska Standard. However, it appears a majority of respondents to a KTUU unscientific poll think differently; 60 percent of respondents say Stevens should not be pardoned (the poll is not restricted to Alaskan residents, though).
Two other people who President Bush should pardon are former Border Patrol agents Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos. Compean and Ramos were tried and convicted on spurious charges of shooting a fleeing drug smuggler caught with 750 pounds of marijuana and then supposedly "covering it up". See this July 2007 CNN story for a detailed description of the case; the prosecutor gave the drug smuggler blanket immunity in exchange for his testimony. In July 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the bulk of the convictions of these two Border Patrol officers, who are serving sentences of 11 and 12 years in prison respectively. The two had been convicted of assault, discharge of a weapon in the commission of a crime of violence, tampering with an official proceeding and deprivation of civil rights. However, they've not given up; Ramos' attorney, David Botsworth, said a petition for writ of certiorari was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court and docketed on December 11th. The government has the right to file a response should it choose to do so by early January.
Previous attempts at a pardon have been unsuccessful. In November, Newsweek reported that among rejected applicants for commutation were Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos. Their requests were recently closed without action because they haven't yet served out their prison terms, Justice spokesman Ian McCaleb told Newsweek. Former Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, along with Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and California Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) have written letters urging Bush to commute their sentences.
And on January 19th, 2008, Bush listened, at least in part. He commuted the sentences of these two patriots. They will be released on March 20th. However, they have not been fully pardoned; their convictions remain on their record.
To add insult to injury, Federal prison officials deliberately put Ramos in general population with a bunch of illegal immigrant prisoners. Four days later, when Ramos' story was aired on America's Most Wanted, and prisoners watched it, the predictable happened - five of them approached Ramos at bedtime, and beat him severely. Ramos suffered three herniated disks and a fractured shoulder from the assault. Of course, the Feds then scrambled to cover their asses and put Ramos in segregation thereafter, but the damage was done.
The 77-page Department of Homeland Security Official Investigation of this case can be found HERE. Other useful websites providing information on the Compean-Ramos case include the National Border Patrol Council, the Ramos-Compean blog, and the ImmigrationProf blog.