• President pardons 17 felons in fourth act of clemency
     | March 03,2013

    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama issued pardons on Friday to 17 convicted felons, making the first use of his clemency powers in his second term.

    Their offenses were largely small-scale crimes many years ago, and 12 of the people had not been sentenced to serve time in prison.

    “As he has in past years, the president granted these individuals clemency because they have demonstrated genuine remorse and a strong commitment to being law-abiding, productive citizens and active members of their communities,” said Matt Lehrich, a White House spokesman.

    Under the Constitution, the president has clemency powers to forgive convictions as a check and balance on the criminal justice system. For a felon who is already out of prison, a pardon can mean erasing the stigma and negative consequences associated with a criminal history, like restrictions on gun ownership, certain licenses and doing business with the government.

    Obama did not issue any commutations, which shorten the sentences of inmates currently in prison.

    During Obama’s first term, he exercised his clemency powers three times, issuing a total of 22 pardons and one commutation. He also denied 1,019 applications for a pardon and 3,793 applications for commutation. His rate of approvals was unusually low, by historical standards, based on statistics dating to 1900 on the Justice Department website.

    Margaret Colgate Love, a former U.S. pardon lawyer who now represents clemency seekers, including two of the 17 people who received pardons on Friday, said she was pleased that Obama had quickly granted a number in his second term and hoped he would do so more regularly in coming years.

    “There are thousands of deserving ordinary Americans who have long since paid their debt to society but remain burdened by legal and social restrictions, and are seeking to put their past behind them,” she said.

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