There is no sense of proportion here. Aaron is serving the same sentence as Robert Hanssen, the FBI agent turned traitor.
In 2004, the U.S. Department of Justice pardon attorney recommended that the president not commute Aaron's sentence. ProPublica recently reported that in a push for more favorable recommendations, the Bush White House had asked the Office of the Pardon Attorney to reconsider Aaron's application.
Unfortunately for Aaron, current pardon attorney Ronald Rodgers passed along his predecessor's recommendation that Aaron's petition be denied. Rodgers failed to disclose that the U.S. attorney's office had reversed its position so that it supported a presidential commutation from life without parole to 25 years -- so that Aaron would be released in 2014. Samuel Morison, who used to work in the pardon attorney's office, believes that Rodgers ill-served Bush, who would have commuted the sentence if his pardon attorney had passed on case facts.
On Thursday, Families Against Mandatory Minimums held an event to urge the Senate Judiciary Committee to investigate the pardon attorney's office in light of Rodgers' failure to pass on that key bit of news. Linda Aaron spoke at the event. Over the phone, she told me she is "puzzled" over Obama's failure to commute her son's sentence.
By any objective measure, Aaron's life without parole sentence is a cruel anomaly. I've been writing about his case for more than a decade because the criminal justice system won't accept responsibility and correct its pernicious excesses. Normally when something's broken, people who care for it fix it. But not the justice system.
Obama was supposed to bring sanity to a federal sentencing structure that over-punishes nonviolent drug offenders. But I guess he's just too busy to get to Clarence Aaron.
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