• Beg your pardon

George W. Bush has been rather restrained in handing out presidential pardons to a variety of convicted criminals during his time in the White House. He has issued 117 — less than half of the number granted by Presidents Reagan and Clinton, for example, and rejected about 8,000. But, as with so many things, it’s quality, not quantity.

Here are a few of the recipients of his most recent round of cleansing:

• John Edward Forte, a Grammy Award-winning rapper from North Brunswick, NJ. The “artist” was arrested at Newark International Airport in 2000 after being found with a briefcase containing $1.4 million worth of cocaine and was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

• Leslie Owen Collier of Charleston, MO. He pleaded guilty in 1995 to improperly using pesticide in hamburger meat to kill coyotes but ending up killing many other animals, including three bald eagles, our national bird.

• Three different people for three different bank-related crimes — Geneva Hogg of Jacksonville, FL, who was convicted of bank embezzlement, William McCright Jr. of Midland, TX, — Bush’s home area — who was convicted of bank fraud, and Paul McCurdy of Sulphur, OK, who was convicted for misapplication of bank funds.

I can hardly wait to find out who gets any last-minute pardons before Bush vacates office. If he thinks people who steal money, handle huge amounts of drugs and ignore environmental laws and kill off our national symbol are worthy of clemency, the sky’s the limit.

Among those who have applied for a get-out-of-jail-free card or image-cleansing move, shown above:

Left: Michael Milken, the Wall Street financier/con artist who created the market for high-yield bonds in the 1980s, leading to his nickname:”Junk Bond King.” He was indicted on 98 counts of racketeering and securities fraud in 1989 as a result of the government’s insider trading investigation of Wall Street. A year later he pled guilty to six felonies, paid $200 million in fines — wonder where he got the money? — and served 22 months in prison. He has since been using his personal fortune in philanthropic ventures, none of which apparently include helping the people he screwed to make that fortune.

Center: Randy “Duke” Cunningham, former California congressman who was caught taking at least $2.4 million in bribes and underreporting his income for 2004. The bribes included limousines, prostitutes and a house boat. He was sentenced to 8 years, 4 four months in prison and ordered to pay $1.8 million in restitution.

Right: John Walker Lindh, the “American Taliban” captured in the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. He was indicted by a federal grand jury on 10 charges, including conspiracy to murder U.S. citizens or nationals, and later pleaded guilty to serving in the Taliban army. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

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About Bill Dowd

Webmaster/social media coordinator for the Southern Rensselaer County NY Rotary Club.

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