11-25-2008, 08:01 PM
Rapper and police sergeant among President Bush pardons
A Grammy Award-winning hip-hop artist and a former Detroit police sergeant are among 16 individuals to be pardoned or to have their prison sentences commuted by President Bush.
The new round of White House pardons announced late last night are Mr Bush's first since March, and come less than two months before the end of his presidency.
The beneficiaries' crimes include drugs conspiracy, tax evasion, poisoning bald eagles, dumping hazardous waste, bank embezzlement and theft of government property.
John Edward Forte, a Grammy Award-winning rapper, is arguably the best known of those pardoned. He was arrested at Newark International Airport in 2000 after being found with a briefcase containing $1.4m of cocaine and was sentenced to 14 years in prison.
Forte, who has always protested his innocence, co-wrote and produced two songs on The Score, the Fugees' Grammy-winning 1996 album and several singers, including Carly Simon, had joined a campaign for his pardon, claiming he was not given a fair-trial.
The singer, of North Brunswick, New Jersey, will be released after serving half of a 14 year sentence.
So far Mr Bush has been sparing in granting clemency, handing out a total of 117 pardons and eight commutations during his two terms in office, including cutting the two-and-a-half year sentence of Scooter Libby, the former White House aide to Vice-President Dick Cheney.
He has turned down more than 8,000 pleas for pardon, and the number he has issued to date is less than half as many as either Presidents Clinton or Reagan.
More are however expected before he leaves the White House, and several high-profile individuals are hoping to benefit.
Most prominent in the US are two politicians convicted of public corruption who are asking Bush to shorten their prison terms — Randy "Duke" Cunningham, a former Republican Congressman for California who was jailed for eight years in 2005 after he pleaded guilty to taking more than $2 million in bribes, and Edwin W. Edwards, the four-times Democratic Governor of Louisiana, who was sentenced to 10 years in 2001 for racketeering.
Michael Milken, a billionaire financier and philanthropist known as the junk bond king, who served two years in prison from 1989 after admitting securities fraud charges, is also hoping to clear his name.
Conrad Black, the disgraced British-Canadian media tycoon and former proprietor of the Daily Telegraph, who is serving six years in a Florida jail for fraud and obstructing justice, is also appealing for clemency.
Much speculation has dwelled on whether Mr Bush might issue pre-emptive pardons to government employees who authorised or engaged in harsh interrogations of suspected terrorists after the September 11 terror attacks. Some constitutional scholars and human rights groups want the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama to investigate possible war crimes.
If Mr Bush were to pardon anyone involved, it would provide protection against criminal charges, particularly for people who were following orders or trying to protect the nation with their actions. But it would also be highly controversial.
At the same time, Mr Obama's advisers say there is little if any chance that his administration would bring criminal charges.
Under the Constitution, the president's power to issue pardons is absolute and cannot be overruled. Criminals seeking a pardon apply to the administration by filling in forms, and are vetted and interviewed by the FBI.
I remember when this rap nigger got caught with all that coke, all his fellow rap niggers were claiming he was set up by the racist system, I didn't believe it. There was a rap nigger who claimed Bush don't care about black people, maybe he is throwing them a bone with this release.