No Bush pardon for Stevens in the works

MURKOWSKI REQUEST: Whether ex-senator wanted one is unclear.

January 19, 2009 

Former Sen. Ted Stevens

President Bush does not intend to pardon former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, a White House spokesman said Monday.

"We don't expect any more" pardons and commutations, Stuart Siciliano said.

A pardon essentially erases a crime from a defendant's record, while a commutation of sentence lessens the punishment. Both types of leniency are afforded under the Constitution through a president's clemency powers.

In one of his last acts as president, Bush on Monday commuted the sentences of two former Border Patrol agents convicted in a 2005 shooting.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski had sought a pardon for her former colleague. Her press secretary, Michael Brumas, said the senator was traveling on Monday and he didn't know whether she had been notified one way or another.

Whether Stevens himself wanted a pardon is unclear. Stevens was convicted in October of seven federal felonies over his failure to report gifts on required Senate disclosure forms. His lawyers are pushing to have the case thrown out or, at the least, win Stevens a new trial. He intends to appeal if those efforts before the trial judge are unsuccessful.

On Monday, Bob Penney, a close friend of Stevens, said he doubted that the former senator wanted to erase his record through a presidential pardon.

"I don't believe Sen. Stevens is looking for or has asked for a pardon. I believe his intent is to prove himself innocent," Penney said from his winter home in California.

Penney said that's his opinion based his knowledge of "the stature of the man," not on anything specific Stevens has said.

"He's going to prove himself innocent. He feels he's been aggrieved, and I certainly do agree," Penney said.

The criminal case has become mired in allegations of government misconduct. One of the FBI agents in the ongoing federal investigation into political corruption has filed a complaint accusing a prosecutor of withholding information that the defense was entitled to see before the trial. The agent, Chad Joy, also has accused the lead agent in the corruption investigation of becoming too close to sources and accepting "things of value," including a painting of her dog and help with house-hunting.

Efforts to reach Stevens were unsuccessful. His daughter Beth said in an e-mail that she relayed a request for an interview to her father and "he had no comment."

Brumas declined to say whether Murkowski consulted with Stevens before seeking the pardon. He also wouldn't say how Murkowski communicated the request to the president.

"It's kind of a sensitive time right now so we are not commenting," Brumas said.

The pardon request did not go through the federal Office of the Pardon Attorney, but rather went directly to Bush, as many do.

In his eight years in office, President Bush has been sparing in his use of clemency, granting fewer requests than any two-term president in modern times.

Bush's action Monday commuted the sentences of two former Border Patrol agents. They are serving prison time after being convicted of assault for shooting an unarmed, fleeing drug smuggler in the buttocks, then trying to cover up what they had done, according to news reports. The border agents are now to be released from prison in March when they still had years left to serve, the Justice Department said in a prepared statement.

Technically, Bush could act on clemency matters until 8 a.m. today Alaska time, when Barack Obama is due to be sworn in as president.

Find Lisa Demer online at adn.com/contact/ldemer or call 257-4390. Find Richard Mauer online at adn.com/contact/rmauer or call 257-4345.

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