Obama Grants First Pardons

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Eleven months into his 2nd year in office, Barack Obama granted his first presidential pardons. They went to 9 individuals for offenses ranging from conspiracy to distribute cocaine to mutilation of coins.

His first acts of Executive Clemency were announced in a press release from the Justice Department, home to the Office of the Pardon Attorney which processes and assesses requests for pardons - and then makes recommendations to the president.

The announcement contained no statement or explanation from Mr. Obama as to why he pardoned the 9 men and women selected, but White House spokesman Reid Cherlin was ready with an explanation:

"The president was moved by the strength of the applicants' post-conviction efforts at atonement, as well as their superior citizenship and individual achievements in the years since their convictions."

The convictions of those pardoned date as far back as 1960 when Russell James Dixon of Clayton, Georgia was sentenced to two years probation for conviction of moonshining: felony liquor law violation. The pardon clears his record and restores any rights and privileges denied him upon his conviction.

Read More about Dixon from CBS News Chief Legal Correspondent Jan Crawford

Four of the convictions are for cocaine-related crimes including "wrongful use" and "conspiracy to distribute."

Other pardons were granted to individuals convicted of:

  • Illegal possession of government property
  • Conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Government
  • Mutilation of coins
  • Passing counterfeit obligations or securities.

In granting pardons, Mr. Obama is acting under the authority granted him by Article 2, Section 2 of the Constitution which assigns him "Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment."

It's the same part of the Constitution that also designates the president as commander-in-chief. Pardons are absolute, except that a president may rescind one, as Mr. Bush did in 2008 when he concluded he granted a pardon in error.

Mr. Obama had come under some criticism in recent weeks for not yet having granted pardons to anyone before today but the National Thanksgiving Turkeys.

Former U.S. Pardon Attorney Margaret Colgate Love went public with criticism that in failing to have granted any clemency to date, Mr. Obama was overlooking "thousands of ordinary people living productive and law-abiding lives... disqualified from opportunities and benefits because of a conviction record that may be decades old."

Love said such people had "earned the second chance that a pardon represents."

In addition to the 9 pardons granted today, government records show Mr. Obama has also denied 131 pardon requests of 551 received since he took office.

Among his post-war predecessors, the fewest pardons were granted by President George H.W. Bush, 74, and the most by Harry Truman, 1,913.

Here is the complete list of the pardons granted today by Mr. Obama:

  • James Bernard Banks - Liberty, Utah

Offense: Illegal possession of government property; 18 U.S.C. § 641.
Sentence: Oct. 31, 1972; District of Utah; two years of probation.

  • Russell James Dixon - Clayton, Ga.

Offense: Felony liquor law violation; 26 U.S.C. § 5604(a)(1).
Sentence: June 23, 1960; Northern District of Georgia; two years of probation.

  • Laurens Dorsey - Syracuse, N.Y.
Offense: Conspiracy to defraud the United States by making false statements to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; 18 U.S.C. §§ 371, 1001.
Sentence: Aug. 31, 1998; District of New Jersey; five years of probation and $71,000 restitution.
  • Ronald Lee Foster - Beaver Falls, Penn.
Offense: Mutilation of coins; 18 U.S.C. § 331.
Sentence: Oct. 4, 1963; Eastern District of North Carolina; one year of probation and $20 fine.
  • Timothy James Gallagher - Navasota, Texas
Offense: Conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine; 21 U.S.C. § 846.
Sentence: Oct. 18, 1982; District of Arizona; three years of probation.
  • Roxane Kay Hettinger - Powder Springs, Ga.
Offense: Conspiracy to distribute cocaine; 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846.
Sentence: March 31, 1986; Northern District of Iowa; 30 days in jail followed by three years of probation.
  • Edgar Leopold Kranz Jr. - Minot, N.D.
Offense: Wrongful use of cocaine, adultery and writing three insufficient fund checks; Articles 112a and 134, Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Sentence: Sept. 14, 1994, as approved Nov. 4, 1994; General court-martial convened at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii; bad conduct discharge (suspended), 24 months of confinement and reduction to pay grade E-1.
  • Floretta Leavy - Rockford, Ill.
Offense: Distribution of cocaine, conspiracy to distribute cocaine, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute; 21 U.S. C. §§ 841(a)(1), (a)(2) and 846, 18 U.S.C. § 2.
Sentence: Oct. 19, 1984; District of Kansas; one year and one day in prison and three years of special parole.
  • Scoey Lathaniel Morris - Crosby, Texas
Offense: Passing counterfeit obligations or securities; 18 U.S.C. §§ 472 and 2.
Sentence: May 21, 1999; Western District of Texas; three years of probation and $1,200 restitution, jointly and severally.

Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here. You can also follow him on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/markknoller.