My fear is that the negative fallout from the Toussie story will prompt Bush to issue fewer pardons and commutations. Bush has been too stingy with this power, even as the foolish inflexibility of federal mandatory minimum sentences has created many worthy recipients. Among them: Clarence Aaron, who is serving a life-without-parole sentence for a first-time nonviolent drug offense. Add Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, two Border Patrol agents sentenced to 11 years and 12 years respectively for shooting and wounding a fleeing drug smuggler in 2005 and covering up the incident.
What's the difference between Aaron, Ramos and Compean and the individuals who rated a Bush pardon or commutation? My guys aren't well connected, but they also were not career criminals. Aaron was a college student who made a serious criminal decision -- and deserved to serve some prison time. Ramos and Compean covered up the questionable shooting of a fleeing drug smuggler. Yes, juries found all three men guilty, but juries had no input into their draconian sentences.
Only the president of the United States has the power to right the wrongness of their sentences. Only Bush can bring justice -- for in these cases, a commutation would not bring mercy but justice -- to men who have known mindless punishment without leavening proportion.
The outrage is not simply that a well-connected white white-collar criminal won a pardon. It also would be an outrage if Bush failed to do right by Aaron, an unconnected African-American man serving life for a first-time nonviolent offense, and two Latino Border Patrol agents who, if they did break the law, did so in the heat of the chase, not the cool of a boardroom.
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