News Release

“Excessive” Sentences and the Administration


In a statement about commutation of Scooter Libby’s sentence, President Bush said: “I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive.”

Kevin Benderman said today: “I was imprisoned for 14 months after trying to apply for conscientious objector status after seeing the reality of the Iraq war.” He is beginning a speaking touring with his wife, Monica Benderman. Their book Letters from a Ft. Lewis Brig is forthcoming later this year.

She said today: “Parole was denied to Kevin because he had not been ‘sufficiently rehabilitated.’ What were they rehabilitating him from? Not wanting to go to war. During those 14 months Kevin would be sitting in a plastic chair getting shouted at; he was denied his mail at times, they tried to prevent his talking to his attorney and our congressperson. Meanwhile, Libby — who covered up the truth on issues of war that affect the lives of people like my husband — is going to walk away.”
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Love was United States pardon attorney in the Justice Department from 1990 to 1997. In an op-ed published last month, she wrote: “It’s important to remember the hundreds of ordinary people who have been patiently standing in line, some for many years, waiting for presidential forgiveness. … Bush has been more sparing in his exercise of the constitutional pardon power than any president in the last 100 years, including his father. He has pardoned only 113 people in more than six years in office and denied more than 1,000 pardon applications. He has granted only three of more than 5,000 requests for sentence reduction from federal prisoners. Many hundreds of applications remain to be acted on.”

She added: “Many of those with pending applications for clemency were convicted long ago of garden-variety crimes and have fully served their time; many others are still serving lengthy mandatory prison terms from which there is no hope of parole (parole having been eliminated from federal sentencing).”
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Mauer is the executive director of The Sentencing Project and the author of the book Race to Incarcerate. He said today: “If President Bush truly believes that the power of commutation is necessary to correct injustice, there is no shortage of cases of people languishing in federal prisons for unconscionably lengthy sentences who are deserving of such attention. These include many of the nearly 100,000 people serving time for a drug offense, most of whom were sentenced under ‘one size fits all’ mandatory sentencing laws that apply even to first-time and low-level offenses. The president could also lend his political support to efforts to eliminate the sentencing disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine, a 21-year-old policy which discriminates against African-Americans and has had no effect on drug abuse.”
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Elizabeth de la Vega served as a federal prosecutor in Minneapolis and San Jose for more than 20 years. She is author of the book U.S. v. George W. Bush et al. She said today: “Yes, the president has the constitutional power to commute sentences, but in this case — where the defendant whose sentence he is commuting is his former top adviser, and where both the president and the vice president are implicated in the same investigation that led to the charges against that adviser — the president’s exercise of that prerogative is an egregious abuse of power. … The judge imposed a sentence in accordance with the sentencing guidelines; indeed, it was the most lenient sentence available under the applicable guideline range. Yet Bush, with no explanation whatsoever, has arbitrarily deemed the sentence ‘excessive’ and obliterated it.”
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For more information, contact the Institute for Public Accuracy at (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan at (541) 484-9167.