Obama Grants First Pardons for Drug Crimes, ‘Coin Mutilation’

Barack Obama granted the first nine pardons of his presidency, including to four drug offenders, another convicted of illegal possession of government property and a Pennsylvania man found guilty of “mutilation of coins.”

Obama 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,” said White House spokesman Reid Cherlin in a statement.

The pardons, which restore civil liberties, were given to three men convicted at least 38 years ago: James Bernard Banks of Liberty, Utah, sentenced in 1972 to two years of probation for illegal possession of government property; Russell James Dixon of Clayton, Georgia, sentenced in 1960 to two years of probation for a felony liquor violation; and Ronald Lee Foster of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, sentenced in 1963 to one year of probation for coin mutilation.

P.S. Ruckman Jr., editor of the Pardon Power blog, called the pardons “insignificant and innocuous” since most of the people never served time in jail. He said he isn’t surprised Obama chose today to announce them because in the past 39 years more than half of such pardons have been granted in December.

“There’s this perception that pardons spring people from prison and throw criminals in the street, and they’re wildly controversial and it costs a lot of political capital to use them,” said Ruckman, a political science professor at Rock Valley College in Rockford, Illinois. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Fraud Conviction

Also pardoned was Laurens Dorsey of Syracuse, New York, who was sentenced in 1998 to five years of probation for conspiracy to defraud a federal government agency.

Four others either served time or were on probation on drug charges: Timothy James Gallagher of Navasota, Texas, sentenced in 1982 to three years of probation on a cocaine possession and distribution charge; Roxane Kay Hettinger of Powder Springs, Georgia, sentenced in 1986 to 30 days in jail on a cocaine distribution charge; Edgar Leopold Kranz Jr. of Minot, North Dakota, sentenced to two years in jail for writing bad checks, drug possession and adultery, and Floretta Leavy of Rockford, Illinois, sentenced in 1984 to about a year in prison on cocaine and marijuana charges.

Obama also pardoned Scoey Lathaniel Morris of Crosby, Texas, who was sentenced in 1999 to three years of probation and fined $1,200 for securities fraud.

To contact the reporter responsible for this story: Kate Andersen Brower in Washington at Kandersen7@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net

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