President Obama granted nine pardons today in what was the first exercise of his constitutional power to commute or reduce criminal sentences. None of those pardoned are in prison.
The oldest case, that of Russell James Dixon, who was convicted of a felony liquor law violation, dates to 1960. Four of the cases involve people convicted of possessing cocaine who were given sentences that the president deemed excessive.
"The president was moved by the strength of the applicants' post-conviction efforts at atonement, as well as their superior citizenship and individual achievements in the years since their convictions," said Reid Cherlin, a White House spokesman.
The four cocaine-related pardons were given to:
- Roxane Kay Hettinger of Powder Springs, Ga., for a 1986 conviction.
- Leopold Kranz Jr. of Minot, N.D., a member of the Air Force. He was also found guilty under the Uniform Code of Military Justice of adultery and writing three bad checks.
- Floretta Leavy of Rockford, Ill., who was sentenced to a year and a day in prison in Kansas in 1984 on a drug-possession conviction, said she was notified by the Justice Department just hours before Obama's decision was made public. In a brief telephone interview, she said she is now working in veterans affairs in northern Illinois. "It's a testimony," said Leavy, who applied for a pardon in January 2007. "It is so awesome. I'm still in awe."
- Timothy James Gallagher of Navasota, Texas, who was convicted in Arkansas of possessing and distributing cocaine in 1982.
The remaining pardons were granted to:
- James Bernard Banks of Liberty, Utah, who was given two years probation for illegally possessing government property.
- Laurens Dorsey of Syracuse, N.Y., who was convicted of defrauding the U.S. by lying to the Food and Drug Administration in 1998. Dorsey was given five years probation and had to pay $71,000.
- Coin mutilator Ronald Lee Foster of Beaver Falls, Pa., convicted in 1963, was sentenced to a year's probation and a $20 fine.
- Scoey Lathaniel Morris of Crosby, Texas, who was convicted of "passing counterfeit obligations or securities" and sentenced to three years probation and ordered to pay $1,200 in restitution.
President George W. Bush granted his first pardons at about the same time in his presidency. He also chose offenders who had served their time. Bush granted a total of 189 pardons during his two terms.