Criminal justice issues continued to capture the national news spotlight this week. On Tuesday, President Donald Trump granted clemency to eleven people, including former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and former San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo Jr. On Thursday, amidst ongoing drama involving President Trump and the U.S. Department of Justice, Roger Stone was sentenced to 40 months in prison for convictions related to obstructing a congressional investigation. Keep reading for more on these stories and other news.
Stone. Following a conflict over sentencing recommendations that caused four prosecutors to withdraw from the case and tension between President Trump and Attorney General William Barr, a federal judge on Thursday sentenced Roger Stone to 40 months in prison, a term substantially shorter than the seven to nine years initially requested by prosecutors.
Clemency. President Trump commuted Rod Blagojevich’s 14-year sentence for attempting to profit off of his authority as Governor to appoint someone to fill Barack Obama’s Illinois Senate seat after he was elected president in 2008. Blagojevich served eight years in prison.
Along with DeBartolo, President Trump pardoned former New York police commissioner Bernard B. Kerik and former Wall Street financier Michael R. Milken. DeBartolo was the principal owner of the San Francisco 49ers from 1977 until 1997, when he was indicted for paying a $400,000 bribe to former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards in exchange for a riverboat gambling license. Kerik served as New York City police commissioner during Rudy Giuliani’s second term as mayor. He later was convicted of tax fraud and making false statements while being vetted for senior positions in the federal government. Milken, once known as the “junk bond king,” was a prominent Wall Street financier in the 1980’s and was indicted on charges of racketeering and securities fraud in 1989. Milken served two years in prison and has been engaged in philanthropic endeavors since his release.
In addition, President Trump commuted the sentences of two women, Tynice Nichole Hall and Crystal Munoz, who each have spent more than a decade in prison for drug offenses and a third woman, Judith Negron, who has served eight years of a 35-year sentence for healthcare fraud.
Lindberg Trial. As the News & Observer reports, trial began this week in Charlotte in the case of a political mega-donor who allegedly attempted to bribe State Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey in order to receive favorable treatment for his insurance business. Greg Lindberg is accused of working with Robin Hayes, the former chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party, to bribe Causey, who reported the scheme and worked with federal authorities. Last fall, Hayes pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during the investigation.
Boy Scout Bankruptcy. On Tuesday, the Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy protection, a move that has been expected as the organization has paid more than $150 million in settlements and legal costs in the past two years related to child abuse allegations. In a court filing, the Scouts said that it currently is facing 275 abuse lawsuits and that it knows of 1,400 other potential claims. The Winston-Salem Journal reported this week that at least six people with ties to the city are linked to abuse while working with the Boy Scouts, with the majority of those incidents occurring in the late 1970’s through the mid 1980’s.
Diocese Bankruptcy. As the Associated Press reports, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, also filed for bankruptcy this week, following a disclosure six months ago that it had paid millions of dollars to people who were victims of sexual abuse by clerics. Last summer, the diocese revealed that it had paid roughly $12 million to over 100 people who claimed they had been abused as children by clerics. The AP report says that the Harrisburg diocese joins at least 20 others across the country that have declared bankruptcy, all of which have continued to operate while going through the bankruptcy process.