President Trump made a number of pardons and commutations Tuesday via a White House statement. This included clemency for several people caught up in the Mueller investigation, three former Republican congressmen, and four military contractors convicted of killing Iraqi civilians.
Mueller related pardons
Among the numerous who were pardoned was George Papadopoulos, foreign policy adviser to the 2016 Trump campaign. Papadopoulos was charged with a process crime: one count of making false statements during Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The presidential release noted that Mueller stated in his report that he found no evidence of collusion in connection with Russia’s attempts to interfere in the election. Yet, Papadopoulos was charged and spent 12 days in jail. The White House says this pardon helps correct the wrong that Mueller’s team inflicted on so many people.
Dutch lawyer Alex van der Zwaan also received a pardon. As with Papadopoulos, van der Zwaan was charged with a process crime—making false statements, in connection with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. His pardon was supported by former Rep. Trey Gowdy.
Military contractors and former Republican Congressmen pardoned
The president also pardoned four Blackwater guards: Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard. These pardons received widespread support from the public and elected officials including Rep. Louie Gohmert, Rep. Paul Gosar, Rep. Ralph Norman, Rep. Bill Flores, Rep. Brian Babin, Rep. Michael Burgess, Rep. Daniel Webster, Rep. Steve King, and Rep. Ted Yoho.
The guards were working in Iraq in 2007 as security contractors responsible for the safety of United States personnel. After the convoy attempted to establish a blockade outside the “Green Zone,” the situation turned violent, resulting in the unintended deaths and injuries of Iraqi civilians. Initial charges against the men were dismissed, but they were eventually tried and convicted on charges ranging from first-degree murder to voluntary manslaughter. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals said that additional evidence should have been disclosed at Slatten’s trial. Moreover, prosecutors recently revealed—more than 10 years after the incident—that the lead Iraqi investigator, who was responsible for collecting evidence, and instrumental in verifying for prosecutors that no victims were members of the insurgent group, may actually have had ties to insurgent groups.
President Trump also pardoned former congressmen Duncan Hunter of California, Chris Collins of New York, and Steve Stockman of Texas. He commuted the prison sentence of Stockman, who was convicted in 2018 of misusing charitable funds. The White House pointed out in the statement that “Stockman has underlying pre-existing health conditions that place his health at greater risk during the COVID epidemic, and he has already contracted COVID while in prison.”
The statement notes that the full pardon to Chris Collins was granted at the request of many members of Congress. Mr. Collins served in Congress for nearly seven years, representing the people of Western New York from 2013 to 2019. In 2019, Mr. Collins pleaded guilty to the charges of conspiring to commit securities fraud and making false statements to the FBI. He is currently serving a 26-month sentence.
Also at the request of many members of Congress, as well as former Commissioner of the Federal Election Commission Bradley Smith, President Trump granted a full pardon to Duncan Hunter. Hunter represented California’s 50th Congressional District from 2013 to 2020. In 2019, he pleaded guilty to one count of misusing campaign funds, an offense that could have been handled as a civil case via the Federal Election Commission, according to Smith. He was due to begin an 11-month sentence in January, 2021.
Trump also granted pardons to Crystal Munoz, Tynice Nichole Hall, and Judith Negron, for their drug crimes. This was at the recommendation of Alice Johnson, the former federal inmate whose sentence Trump commuted after Kim Kardashian West brought her case to his attention.
Here I am with the women I look up to: Jessica Jackson, Erin Haney, Alice Johnson and Judith Negron, Crystal Munoz, and Tynice Nichole Hall who just had their lengthy prison sentences commuted. pic.twitter.com/AClzyR1tOm
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) March 10, 2020
Two former border patrol agents who were convicted of assaulting an illegal immigrant trafficking 700 pounds of marijuana in 2005 were also pardoned.
Alfonso Costa, a Pittsburgh dentist who pleaded guilty to health care fraud related to false billing also received a pardon. Dr. Costa had made a request for clemency and was supported by Dr. Ben Carson and Jerome Bettis, as well as numerous business associates, patients, and community leaders from Pittsburgh. Alfred Lee Crum, age 89, received a pardon with the support of former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Oklahoma Brian Kuester. Crum had pleaded guilty at age 19 in 1952 to illegally distilling moonshine in Oklahoma. The statement notes that Crum served three years of probation and paid a $250 fine. He maintained a clean record and a strong marriage for nearly 70 years, attended the same church for 60 years, raised four children, and regularly participated in charity fundraising events.
With the support of Senator Mike Lee, Senator Rand Paul, Alice Johnson, former U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman and others, Weldon Angelos received a pardon. Angelos is an active criminal justice reform advocate who champions second chances. Mandatory minimums meant Angelos was sentenced in 2002 to 55 years imprisonment for selling marijuana and carrying a handgun during his crimes. Even the presiding judge called this excessive sentence “unjust and cruel and even irrational.” After serving 13 years, Angelos was released by judicial order and dedicated himself to changing the world for the better through criminal justice reform advocacy. His story was often cited as the inspiration for sentencing reform, including the Trump administration’s First Step Act.
Philip Lyman, a former county commissioner in Utah who was subjected to selective prosecution for protesting the Bureau of Land Management’s closure of the Recapture Canyon to ATV riders was pardoned. He had no other criminal history but was arrested and sentenced to 10 days in prison and nearly $96,000 in restitution. Otis Gordon, who was convicted of drug possession with intent to distribute, was pardoned with the support of Senator Tim Scott. Since his conviction, Gordon has become a pastor at Life Changer’s International Ministries and he mentors at-risk youth in his community. Senator Tim Scott says Gordon has been “a model citizen” since his release “focused on helping young men avoid the same traps he once fell in.”
Philip Esformes, who was convicted of paying bribes in a Medicare fraud case, had some of his prison sentence commuted. This commutation was supported by former Attorneys General Edwin Meese, Michael Mukasey, John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzalez, as well as other notable legal figures such as Ken Starr, and former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson. They supported his appeal challenging the conviction on the grounds of prosecutorial misconduct related to violating attorney-client privilege. Esformes, who is 52, has been devoted to prayer and repentance while in prison and is in declining health.
These pardons add to last month’s pardon of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.