Eric Holder Reportedly Pressed for FALN Inmates’ Clemency
Attorney General nominee Eric Holder pressured pardon staffers in the Clinton administration’s Justice Department to change their stance and recommend clemency for members of two Puerto Rican nationalist groups, according to a newspaper report.
After Pardon Attorney Roger Adams objected to the request, Holder instructed him to draft an “options memo” that took a neutral stance on the issue, the Los Angeles Times reports. The newspaper spoke to Adams and other Justice Department staffers, and reviewed previously undisclosed documents supporting Adams’ contention.
“I remember this well, because it was such a big deal to consider clemency for a group of people convicted of such heinous crimes,” Adams told the Times. He said Holder wasn’t satisfied with his strong opposition, voiced in several internal memos and a draft report recommending denial.
Nick Shapiro, a spokesman for President-elect Obama, confirmed in a statement to the Los Angeles Times that Holder had sought the options memo. “Eric Holder carefully reviewed the FALN clemency request, weighed the positions of both sides, including law enforcement, and concluded that the sentences of up to 90 years imposed on these prisoners [were] disproportionate to other federal and state sentences,” he said. “President Clinton made the ultimate decision to commute these sentences, conditioned on the prisoners’ agreement to renounce violence and accept restrictions on their travel.”
The options memo provided political cover for President Clinton, who could commute the 16 nationalists’ sentences without appearing to go against the Justice Department recommendation, Adams told the newspaper. The nationalists, members of FALN and Los Macheteros, had been convicted of bank robbery, possession of explosives and conspiracy. Most had served 19 years in prison.
Some opponents claimed the commutations were designed to boost Hispanic support for Hillary Clinton’s run for the Senate and Al Gore’s bid for the presidency.
Adams left the Justice Department in 2008 after an inspector general’s report claimed he made racist remarks, an allegation he denied.