Journalism in the Public Interest

Clarence Aaron Still Waiting for Clemency, Months after Report Found Pardon Atty Misrepresented Case

Update, Dec. 19: President Obama ordered today that Clarence Aaron be released in April 2014. Seven others convicted of drug offenses also had their sentences shortened. Read our new story.

March 9, 2013: This post has been corrected.

Last week, President Obama pardoned 17 people – another batch of pardons from a president who has granted clemency at a lower rate than any of his recent predecessors.

Among the thousands still waiting for a pardon or commutation from Obama is Clarence Aaron. His application for early release is pending despite media attention and a finding by the Justice Department’s inspector general that his case was mishandled.

Nearly three months after the inspector general’s report, the Justice Department won’t say if any action has been taken in response.

Aaron seemed like a model candidate for commutation. As we detailed in a story co-published with the Washington Post, Aaron was sentenced to three life sentences at 24 for his role in a cocaine deal. It was his first criminal offense, and he was not the buyer, seller, nor supplier of the drugs.

Both the prosecutor’s office and sentencing judge involved in his case came to support a commutation – which would mean an immediate release. (A pardon is for those who have done their time and have been out of prison at least five years.) He has been in prison since 1993, and will die there if his sentence is not shortened.

But the pardon attorney, Ronald L. Rodgers, recommended to President Bush that Aaron’s request be denied. ProPublica found that Rodgers withheld critical information from the White House about Aaron’s application. The revelations prompted the inspector general to investigate, and this December he concluded that Rodgers had misrepresented the case.

The report said that Rodger’s advice to the President "was colored by his concern ... that the White House might grant Aaron clemency presently and his desire that this not happen." 

The inspector general referred the case to Deputy Attorney General James Cole to determine “whether administrative action is appropriate.”

A spokesman for the Justice Department declined to comment on the status of Cole’s review.  

Aaron reapplied for commutation in April, 2010. This July, the White House asked for a fresh review of his case.

After hearing from the Justice Department we reached out to Aaron’s attorney, but did not receive an immediate response.  

Obama has granted clemency at a lower rate than any modern president, according to a ProPublica analysis of Justice Department statistics.

The president relies on recommendations from the pardon attorney to decide the fates of thousands of clemency applications. While the number of applicants has increased in recent years, Obama has been denying people faster than his predecessors.

Obama has pardoned 39 people, while denying 1,333. Last week he also denied 1,557 requests for commutation, for a total of 5,370.

Correction: An earlier version of this piece stated that the pardons announced last Friday were Obama's "second batch." In fact, he has issued the 39 pardons in four batches. 

The way I see it, is that there were many mistakes made all over the board. Yet, the “only” one who is still paying for the mistakes is Clarence Aaron. Where is the justice?

Maybe we should start a petition site for Mr. Aaron’s release. That way, President Obama would be able to see the number of people who are in favor of clemency for Mr. Aaron.

Clemency for Mr. Aaron and justice for the wrongly convicted…I would like to think these ITEMS OF INTEREST would be at at the top of President Obama’s list, or somewhere near.  But, of course they couldn’t vote for him to help ensure his nomination as some others did. So why should he be in a hurry to do anything for them?  The DOJ doesn’t give a rat’s jackass, neither does he.  Look at all the wrongful convictions coming to light in recent months.  If he ordered an investigation into these miscarriages of justice, and stop allowing these corrupt government officials to break up homes, then he might be able to fix the National Debt with the money he’d save from welfare, foster homes and homeless shelters.  Get off the jackass golf course and do something about these rotten, corrupt judges and prosecutors who act as if someone made them God I THINK NOT!!

This article is part of an ongoing investigation:
Presidential Pardons

Presidential Pardons: Shades of Mercy

White criminals seeking presidential pardons are nearly four times as likely to succeed as people of color, a ProPublica examination has found.

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