The president’s pardons and sentence commutations of powerful men drew swift criticism from Democrats and political analysts.
What do a corrupt former governor, a police commissioner-turned-criminal, and a felonious billionaire sports owner have in common?
They all share a champion in President Trump. On Tuesday, the president granted clemency or pardons to former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, former New York City police commissioner Bernie Kerik, and Eddie Debartolo, who once owned the San Francisco 49ers.
Blagojevich was convicted of corruption in 2011 after he tried to sell then-President Barack Obama’s open Senate seat. Trump commuted the 62-year-old’s sentence, meaning Blagojevich will not serve out the rest of his prison sentence, which was set to end in May 2024.
“He’ll be able to go back to his family after serving eight years in jail, which was a powerful and ridiculous sentence in my opinion,” Trump told reporters on Tuesday. The move has been criticized by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker as well as the state’s Republican congressional delegation.
Kerik—who led the New York Police Department during the September 11, 2001, attacks and has criticized protests of police brutality—was imprisoned in 2010 on eight felony charges, including tax fraud. Debartolo pleaded guilty in 1998 for failing to report a felony when he paid $400,000 to former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards in exchange for a riverboat gambling license. He did not serve jail time but agreed to pay up to $1 million in fines and relinquish ownership of the 49ers.
Trump’s pardons and sentence commutations of powerful men drew swift criticism from Democrats and political analysts.
Trump also granted pardons to several other figures during Tuesday’s spree:
- Michael Milken, the billionaire financier who was embroiled in insider trading scandals in the 1980s and spent 22 months in prison for securities violations.
- Paul Pogue, the former head of a Texas construction firm who committed tax fraud and was sentenced to three years probation.
- David Safavian, a former Bush administration official who was convicted of perjury and served a year in prison for his role in the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal.
- Angela Stanton, a conservative activist and advocate for criminal justice reform who served a 6-month home confinement sentence in 2007 for her role in a stolen vehicle ring.
While Blagojevich’s commutation is already soaking up the headlines, the president also commuted the sentences of three low-level, nonviolent offenders:
- Tynice Nichole Hall, a 36-year-old mother who has spent 14 years behind bars for allowing her apartment to be used to sell drugs. She was set to spend four more years in prison prior to the commutation.
- Crystal Munoz, a mother who has spent 12 years in prison for possession of marijuana.
- Judith Negron, the former owner of a Miami-area mental health care company who was convicted for orchestrating a fraud scheme that resulted in the submission of more than $205 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare.
Trump’s clemency and pardon spree comes just a week after he intervened in the federal case against his friend and former advisor Roger Stone, calling the Department of Justice’s initial sentencing recommendation of seven to nine years a “miscarriage of justice.” Senior DOJ leadership reduced the department’s sentencing recommendation following Trump’s comments, prompting all four prosecutors to withdraw from the case and one to resign from the DOJ altogether.
Stone will be sentenced on Thursday, but Trump hinted earlier this month that he might pardon Stone. If Stone does receive a pardon, he will join those pardoned on Tuesday as well as the likes of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, former Bush administration official Scooter Libby, and conservative commentator Dinesh d’Souza, all of whom have received pardons from Trump.