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Obama denies clemency for Leonard Peltier, nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee

2017/01/21

leonard 161234The power to grant pardons is one of the most controversial presidential powers. Throughout history, many criminals have been spared life in prison. We’ve collected a list of the most remembered ones.

President Obama granted 603 of headline-grabbing pardons and commutations in his last week in office in a record-breaking surge of executive clemency. But he also quietly denied more than 3,000 cases in what was an equally unprecedented spate of denials.

Among those denied clemency in Obama’s final days, according to the Justice Department:

► Wen Ho Lee, the University of California physicist accused — and then largely exonerated — of leaking nuclear secrets to the Chinese in 1999.

► Former Alabama governor Don Siegelman, who is serving a seven-year sentence for corruption.

► Leonard Peltier, the American Indian activist convicted of killing two FBI agents in 1975.

Neither the White House nor the Justice Department discusses reasons for denying a pardon as a matter of “well-established policy.” But Lee’s denial was all the more noteworthy given that Obama granted clemency in two other cases involving national security secrets the day before.

Most controversial was a commutation of sentence for Chelsea Manning, convicted of six counts of espionage for leaking a trove of military and diplomatic cables to the web site Wikileaks. She had her 35-year sentence cut to just seven years by Obama.

The president also gave a full pardon to retired Marine general James Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff convicted in October of leaking secrets about the U.S. response to Iran’s nuclear program to The New York Times.

President Barack Obama announced 330 more commutations to non-violent drug offenders, on his last day in office. Buzz60

Lee, a Taiwanese-American scientist working at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, was fired from his job in 1999 as news reports identified him as a suspect in an investigation into Chinese spying. He was placed in solitary confinement without bail, but the government could only prove that he mishandled restricted data by backing it up on a non-secure system.

Lee later won an apology and an $895,000 settlement from the federal government — and a $750,000 settlement from four news organizations who identified him as a suspect based on anonymous sources.

Lee’s attorneys could not immediately be reached for comment early Friday.

The record-setting number of denials is, in part, a function of the enormous rush of applications from Obama’s 2014 clemency initiative, which offered to shorten the prison terms of drug offenders who received mandatory minimum sentences. During his presidency, Obama received more than 3,395 requests for pardons and 33,149 for commutations.(Unlike a full pardon, which represents complete legal forgiveness for a crime, a commutation shortens a sentence but leaves other legal consequences intact.)

Under Justice Department guidelines, those denied a pardon require a five-year waiting period before applying again.

The denial list does not include some other high-profile federal convicts who had asked for clemency, including former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich and former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, both Democrats accused of corruption. That means Donald Trump will inherit their cases when he’s sworn in as president.

Trump will inherit 2,011 pardon cases and 8,880 commutation cases, according to the Justice Department. (Gregory Korte , USA TODAY, Published|Updated Jan. 20, 2017)

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/01/20/obama-denies-clemency-leonard-peltier-nuclear-scientist-wen-ho-lee/96820418/

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