Bush Pardons 29 Convicts, but Not Libby

President Bush granted pardons Tuesday to carjackers, drug dealers, a moonshiner and a violator of election laws, but not to I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, his vice president's former top aide who was convicted in the case of the leaked identity of a CIA operative.

In all, Bush pardoned 29 convicts and reduced the prison sentence of one more in the end-of-the-year presidential tradition.

Justice Department spokesman Erik Ablin said Bush has granted 142 pardons and commuted five sentences since taking office in 2001 — lagging far behind the pace set by most modern presidents.

The list was issued with little fanfare Tuesday afternoon by the Office of the Pardon Attorney at the Justice Department. Bush was not expected to issue any more pardons this year.

In July, Bush commuted Libby's 2 1/2-year sentence, sparing Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff from serving any prison time after being convicted of perjury and obstructing justice. Libby, who recently dropped appeals to have his convictions overturned, has paid a $250,000 fine and remains on two years probation.

Libby was the only person to face criminal charges in the case of the 2003 leak of then-CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity. Plame, who has since left the CIA, contends the White House was trying to discredit her husband, a critic of Bush's Iraq policy.

A pardon amounts to federal forgiveness for one's crime, while a commutation cuts short an existing prison term.

Nearly all of those to win pardons this year were small-time crooks who at most were imprisoned for five years. Many of them never served time at all, and instead were fined or put on probation.

On the list this year was William Charles Jordan Jr., a 64-year-old retiree from Dover, Pa., who was pardoned for his role in a college and NFL football gambling ring that federal authorities shut down on Super Bowl Sunday in 1997.

Jordan said he did not want his eight grandchildren to know he was a felon, so he obtained the necessary paperwork through his congressman. He learned Tuesday the pardon came through.

"It's a nice Christmas present," Jordan said. "I didn't know what the odds were on getting one. I just sent the stuff in and hoped."

Others pardoned included:

—Jeffrey James Bruce, of Chandler, Okla., convicted in 1994 of possessing stolen mail. He served five years probation and paid $4,789 in restitution.

—Jackie Ray Clayborn, of Deer, Ark., sentenced in 1993 to five months in prison, two years of supervised release and $3,000 in fines on marijuana charges.

—John Fornaby, of Boynton Beach, Fla., convicted in 1991 of conspiring to distribute cocaine. He served three years in prison.

—Melton Harrell, of Cairo, Ga., sentenced in 1976 to two years probation and a $200 fine for stealing government property.

—Saul Kaplan of Scranton, Pa., sentenced in 1992 for violating the Federal Election Campaign Act and fined $25,000.

—John F. McDermott, from Moretown, Vt., sentenced in 1995 for receiving kickbacks in defense procurement contracts. He served two years probation and paid a $10,000 fine.

—William James Norman of Tallahassee, Fla., convicted in 1970 for possessing and running an unregistered distillery that did not carry the proper signage and illegally produced alcoholic drinks made from mash. He was sentenced to three years probation.

—James Albert Bodendieck Sr., of New Athens, Ill., sentenced in 1959 to three years probation for transporting a stolen vehicle across state lines.

—Glanus Terrell Osborne of Dallas, Ga., sentenced in 1990 for possessing a stolen motor vehicle. He served three years probation, including 90 days in a community corrections center, and paid a $2,000 fine.

Additionally, Bush cut short the 1992 prison sentence of crack cocaine dealer Michael Dwayne Short of Hyattsville, Md., who will be released on Feb. 8 after serving 15 years of his 19-year sentence. Short's commutation comes the day the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted unanimously to allow some 19,500 federal prison inmates, most of them black, to seek reductions in their crack cocaine sentences.

Short must still serve a term of supervised release.

Molly Gill, spokeswoman for Families Against Mandatory Minimums, applauded Bush's decision to spring Short early. She described Short as a first-time convict who played only a small role in a Washington-area crack ring.

"Commutations can only impact individual lives," Gill said. "What we need is systemic change to federal sentencing laws, and that is up to Congress. Congress should address all mandatory minimums so the courts can prevent unfair sentences like Short's from recurring."

Compared to most of his immediate predecessors, Bush has granted far fewer pardons for the length of time he's been in the White House.

President Clinton issued a total of 457 in eight years in office. Bush's father, George H. W. Bush, issued 77 in four years. President Reagan issued 406 in eight years, and President Carter issued 563 in four years.

Since World War II, the largest number of pardons and commutations — 2,031 — came from President Truman, who served 82 days short of eight years.