President Bush on Wednesday retracted one of the 19 presidential pardons he granted just before the Christmas holiday.
The White House announced that Isaac Toussie, a Brooklyn developer convicted of fraud and making false statements to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, should not be granted clemency.
White House press secretary Dana Perino said the new decision was "based on information that has subsequently come to light," including on the extent and nature of Toussie's prior criminal offenses. She also said that neither the White House counsel's office nor the president had been aware of a political contribution by Toussie's father that "might create an appearance of impropriety."
"Given that, this was the prudent thing to do," she said.
The new information came out in news reports, Perino said. The counsel's office generally doesn't include vetting of political contributions in its reviews on such matters, as that would be "highly inappropriate on many levels," she said. The White House decision on Toussie had come without a recommendation from the pardon attorney, Ronald L. Rodgers, as Toussie's request for a pardon came less than five years after completion of his sentence, so that eliminated another step in the review process.
Perino said she is not aware of any other instance of a pardon reversal, in the Bush administration or others.
A story in the New York Daily News said Toussie's father, Robert, donated $28,500 to the national Republican Party in April. It was his first political donation and came just months before Toussie's pardon petition, the newspaper said.
That story, and another in Newsday and on blogs, also shed light on Toussie's record. He pleaded guilty for lying to HUD and mail fraud, admitting that he falsified finances of prospective homebuyers seeking HUD mortgages.
Toussie, 36, was sentenced to five months in prison and a $10,000 fine on Sept. 22, 2003, as well as three years of supervised released conditioned on five months of home detention for selling overpriced land to Suffolk County and several home buyers who he helped qualify for HUD loans by lying about their income. A class action lawsuit against Toussie and his father, Robert I. Toussie, alleged he also lied to the home buyers by convincing them their property taxes would be deferred or reduced.
Though Bush granted 19 pardons and one commutation on Tuesday, the White House has ordered the pardon attorney to take a second look at the case.
"The president believes that the pardon attorney should have an opportunity to review this case before a decision on clemency is made," Perino said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.