US President Barack Obama granted clemency to 21 criminals over the weekend, as part of the pardons and commutations traditionally approved ahead of the Christmas holiday. Obama pardoned 13 criminals and commuted the sentences of eight.
Most of the convicts on the list were drug dealers and thieves, some of whom would have received lesser sentences if convicted of the same crimes today.
Despite a recent request from his close ally and former cabinet member Bill Richardson, Obama did not include Israel agent Jonathan Pollard on his holiday clemency list. Pollard is in his 29th year of a life sentence.
Richardson called on the president to commute the convicted spy’s life sentence in a letter on Tuesday.
The president tried unsuccessfully to appoint Richardson as his commerce secretary after he dropped out of the 2008 presidential race and endorsed Obama rather than his rival candidate, Hillary Clinton. Richardson was energy secretary in Bill Clinton’s cabinet, so his endorsement of Obama gave him a big boost that helped him get elected.
Richardson also served as ambassador to the United Nations and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times. He maintains a close relationship with Obama.
“I am aware commutations are being considered at this time,” Richardson wrote, referring to presidential clemency directives traditionally issued before Christmas. “Please add Jonathan Pollard to the list of those to be released.”
In the letter, Richardson noted that nearly all those with first-hand knowledge of Pollard’s case now support allowing him to leave prison.
He recalled discussions on Pollard in Bill Clinton’s cabinet 15 years ago.
“In my view, there is no longer a need for a discussion today,” Richardson wrote.
“Virtually everyone who was in a high position of government – and dealt with the ramifications of what Pollard did at the time – now support his release.”
Richardson pointed out that many of these major decision makers have issued public calls for Pollard’s release, including former secretary of state George Shultz, former national security adviser Robert McFarlane, and William Webster, the head of the FBI at the time of Pollard’s arrest and the only man in history to head both the FBI and the CIA.
In his letter, Richardson blamed then-secretary of defense Caspar Weinberger for Pollard receiving a life sentence despite a plea bargain in which the government committed to not seek a life sentence.
Pollard has already spent 28 years of the life sentence in a federal prison for passing classified information to an ally.
No one else in the history of the United States has ever received a life sentence for this offense, whose median time served is two to four years.
Content is provided courtesy of the Jerusalem Post