President Biden pardons 3 including former Chicago Secret Service agents

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden has granted the first three pardons of his term and a Kennedy-era Secret Service agent convicted of bribery for attempting to sell a copy of an agency file and two people convicted of drug abuse Grace granted fees but became pillars in their communities.

The Democratic president also commuted the sentences of 75 others on nonviolent drug-related convictions. The White House announced the clemency grants on Tuesday as it launched a series of job training and reentry programs for those in prison or recently released.

Many of those who have received commutations have been serving their sentences under house arrest during the COVID-19 pandemic. Several were serving long sentences and would have received shorter sentences had they been convicted of the same offenses today as a result of the 2018 bipartisan prison reform enacted by the Trump administration.

“America is a nation of laws and second chances, redemption and rehabilitation,” Biden said in a statement announcing the clemency funds. “Elected officials on both sides of the aisle, faith leaders, civil rights advocates and law enforcement all agree that our criminal justice system can and should reflect these core values ​​that enable safer and stronger communities.”

These pardons granted are:

– Abraham Bolden Sr., 86, the first Black Intelligence agent to serve in a Presidential detail. In 1964, Bolden, who was serving in the command of President John F. Kennedy, faced federal bribery allegations for attempting to sell a copy of an intelligence file. His first trial ended in a hung jury.

After his conviction at a second trial, key witnesses admitted lying at the prosecutor’s request. Bolden of Chicago was denied a retrial and served several years in federal prison. Bolden has maintained his innocence and has written a book in which he argues he was targeted for speaking out against racist and unprofessional behavior in the Secret Service.

– Betty Jo Bogans, 51, was convicted of possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine in Texas in 1998 after attempting to transport drugs for her boyfriend and his accomplice. Bogans, a single mother with no criminal record, was sentenced to seven years in prison. In the years since her release from prison, Bogans has worked steadily, even while undergoing cancer treatment, and has raised a son.

– Dexter Jackson, 52, of Athens, Georgia, was convicted in 2002 of using his pool hall to facilitate the marijuana trade. Jackson pleaded guilty and admitted he allowed his business to be used by marijuana dealers.

After Jackson was released from prison, he converted his business into a cell phone repair service employing local high school students through a young adult work experience program. Jackson has built and renovated homes in his community, which lacks affordable housing.

Civil rights and criminal justice reform groups have urged the White House to commute sentences and work harder to reduce inequalities in the criminal justice system. Biden’s pleas for clemency also come as the administration was investigated by Congress over misconduct and the treatment of inmates at the beleaguered federal prison agency, which has jurisdiction over inmates serving sentences at home.

As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Biden helped draft the 1994 Crimes Act, which many criminal justice experts say contributed to harsh sentences and mass incarceration of black people.

During his 2020 White House run, Biden vowed to reduce the number of people incarcerated in the United States and called for nonviolent drug offenders to be redirected to drug courts and treatment.

He has also urged better training for law enforcement officials and called for changes in the criminal justice system to address inequalities that have meant minorities and the poor make up a disproportionate share of the country’s incarcerated population.

Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, granted 143 pardons and 237 clemencies during his four-year tenure.

Trump sought the advice of prison reform advocate Alice Johnson, a black woman whose life sentence he was commuting for a nonviolent drug offense in 2018. He was also influenced by celebrity Kim Kardashian, as well as White House aides including daughter Ivanka Trump and son, father-in-law Jared Kushner as he weighed clemency pleas.

The Republican used his parole powers to help several political friends and allies, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Republican Roger Stone and Charles Kushner, Ivanka Trump’s father-in-law.

Trump’s final acts as president included pardoning his former chief strategist Steve Bannon and Al Pirro, husband of Fox News host and Trump ally Jeanine Pirro.

Prosecutors claimed Bannon, who was yet to appear in court when he was pardoned, duped thousands of donors who believed their money would be used to fulfill Trump’s key campaign promise to build a wall along the southern border. Instead, Bannon allegedly diverted more than $1 million, paying a salary to a campaign official and personal expenses for himself. Pirro was convicted of tax bills in 2000.

With the list of pardons and commutations announced Tuesday, Biden has issued more clemency petitions than any of the previous five presidents at this point in his tenure, according to the White House.

In addition to the clemency grants, Biden announced several new initiatives aimed at helping formerly incarcerated people find employment — an issue his administration is driving home as key to lowering crime rates and preventing recidivism.

The Department of Labor is providing $140 million for programs that provide job training, pre-apprenticeship programs, digital literacy training, and pre- and post-release careers counseling and more for youth and incarcerated adults.

The $1 trillion infrastructure bill passed by Congress last year includes a trio of grant programs that the government says encourage hiring of formerly incarcerated people. And the Labor and Justice Departments on Tuesday announced a collaborative plan that would provide $145 million over the next year for job skills training and individual employment and readmission plans for people serving time in the Bureau of Prisons.

Biden said the new initiatives are critical to helping the more than 600,000 people released from prison each year get onto stable ground.

“Helping those who have served time to return to their families and become contributing members of their communities is one of the most effective ways to reduce recidivism and decrease crime,” Biden said.


Associated Press writer Michael Balsamo contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. President Biden pardons 3 including former Chicago Secret Service agents

Dais Johnston

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