Lil Wayne, Steve Bannon, and Some Drug War Victims Pardoned, but No Assange, Snowden, or Ulbricht
Trump manages to do a little good on his way out. In his last few weeks in office, outgoing President Donald Trump went on an execution spree and spawned a riot at the U.S. Capitol. So, it’s no surprise that he spent his last full day in the White House yesterday further sullying his legacy, taking back an order issued at the start of his presidency—back when he still pretended to care about “draining the swamp”—that bans administration officials from private lobbying within five years of leaving office while (for the second time) pardoning a former campaign chief. This time, the pardon went to Steve Bannon, the architect of some of the worst anti-immigrant policies and alt-right tones in Trump’s campaign and early presidential days.
Meanwhile, Trump failed to pardon or commute the sentences of government whistleblowers like Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, and Reality Winner or Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht, as many had been urging him to.
However, Trump did issue some commendable pardons and commutations yesterday, including to rap star Lil Wayne, who was recently busted on gun charges, and Lavonne Roach, a woman sentenced to 30 years in prison for helping out with her boyfriend’s meth operation.
In total, Trump approved 143 clemency petitions, commuting sentences for 70 people and pardoning 73.
At least 10 people serving life sentences for nonviolent drug crimes had their sentences commuted.
These include David Barren, whose life sentence was commuted under Barack Obama… to 30 years in prison. And they include Chris Young, who in 2014—at 26 years old—was sentenced to life in prison for possession with intent to distribute cocaine.
Oh my goodness, Chris Young got a commutation. I wrote about his case in 2018. The judge who sentenced him quit a lifetime appointment to the bench and became an advocate for his release https://t.co/okAjGpjxDP pic.twitter.com/cijrXldpN6
— CJ Ciaramella (@cjciaramella) January 20, 2021
Also among those granted commutations were “Michael Pelletier, who went to prison in 2007 for importing marijuana; Craig Cesal, a first-time offender who was imprisoned in 2003 for repairing trucks that were used to distribute marijuana; and Darrell Frazier, who was sentenced in 1991 for his role in a cocaine trafficking operation,” notes Jacob Sullum, who makes a case for celebrating pardons even of Trump cronies. (“The focus on Trump’s motivation obscures the crucial question of whether the recipients of commutations received sentences that were grossly disproportionate in light of the conduct that sent them to prison,” he writes.)
Sullum points out that while Trump’s commutation total doesn’t “come near Obama’s, which surpassed those of his 13 most recent
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