US President Joe Biden granted the first three pardons of his term to a former Secret Service agent convicted of bribery after trying to sell a copy of an agency file, and two others sentenced on drug-related charges but who have become pillars in their communities.
The Democratic president also commuted the sentences of 75 people for nonviolent drug offenses. The White House announced the pardons Tuesday, coinciding with the launch of a series of training and re-employment programs for people who are incarcerated or recently released.
Many of those who have seen their sentences commuted served part of their sentences under house arrest due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Several had long sentences that would have been less had they been convicted of the same crimes today, following a 2018 bipartisan reform enacted by the Trump administration.
“America is a nation of laws and second chances, of redemption and rehabilitation,” Biden said in the statement announcing the pardons.
“Elected officials from both sides of the House, religious leaders, civil rights advocates and law enforcement leaders agree that our criminal justice system can and should reflect those core values that enable safer and stronger communities.” , he added.
One of those pardoned is Abraham Bolden Sr., 86, who was the first black Secret Service agent on a presidential escort. In 1964, Bolden, who was part of President John F. Kennedy’s staff, faced federal bribery charges for trying to sell a copy of a department file. His first trial ended without a jury decision.
Following his conviction in a second trial, key witnesses admitted lying at the request of the prosecution. Bolden, who was denied a retrial, spent several years in federal prison. He has maintained his innocence and wrote a book in which he claims that he was harmed for exposing racist and unprofessional behavior in the Secret Service.
Another pardon went to Betty Jo Bogans, 51, who in 1998 was convicted in Texas of possession with intent to distribute crack after attempting to transport the drug for her boyfriend and his accomplice. Bogans, a single mother with no record, received a seven-year sentence.
After his release from prison, he has maintained a steady job, including during cancer treatment, and raised his son.
The latest pardon went to Dexter Jackson, 52, of Athens, Georgia, who was sentenced in 2002 for using his pool room to facilitate marijuana trafficking, a crime to which he pleaded guilty.
When he became free, he turned his business into a cell phone repair service that employs high school students through a program that allows them to gain work experience. In addition, he has built and renovated homes in his community, which has a shortfall in affordable rents.
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