(Feb. 21)

Before President Trump even considers pardoning yet another political heavyweight like Rod Blagojevich, Eddie DeBartolo, or the just-sentenced Roger Stone, he should pardon people more deserving — including two people who, ironically enough, met at a dinner organized on Stone’s behalf two years ago.

To be clear, the 2018 dinner at Lynora’s restaurant in West Palm Beach wasn’t one for people without political connections. The whole point was to rally support within the pro-Trump community in southern Florida. But whereas Stone remains an apparently unrepentant scofflaw, one who has boasted about playing sleazy politics for decades, the two people with prior federal felonies who met there both have good cases for clemency. One has more than made up for a lack of administrative judgment, through a life marked before and after by tremendous philanthropy, while the other should never have faced federal prosecution on a gun charge that was arguably unconstitutional.

Their chance meeting at Lynora’s led Florida billionaire James Batmasian and one-time Alabama politician Stephen Nodine to help lead the successful campaign in Florida to reenfranchise ex-convicts, but that’s not why they merit pardons. (I think the Florida law is actually somewhat too lenient: There should be a predictable path for nonviolent felons to regain voting rights, but not without any intermediate demonstrations of good citizenship.) They, or people somewhat similarly situated, deserve a break based on the nonpolitical particulars of their cases.

Trump so far seems to issue pardons to send messages related to his own interest and image, but pardons instead should represent earned forgiveness and redemption.

I have Batmasian’s pardon application in my hands. It is a remarkable document. A self-made billionaire largely through real estate investment, Batmasian already was a philanthropic pillar of the community when he strayed into tax law violations….

[The rest of this column is here.]


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