Highly publicized trials for white-collar crimes in Texas are notorious for inciting public rage and adding tremendous political pressure to seek the maximum punishment for the offenders. Combatting excessive sentences by way of criminal justice reform is a long, slow process. In the meantime, the U.S. president holds the key to righting the wrongs of harsh sentencing with the ability to pardon those he or she sees as deserving.
President Donald Trump received widespread criticism for granting clemency to former Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Wall Street kingpin Michael Milken in February, according to the New York Times. However, many believe that President Trump was justified in both instances.
Mr. Blagojevich, indicted for misdeeds involving an empty U.S. Senate seat, earned a lengthy prison term for his alleged crimes. Although it is unknown exactly how frequently political corruption occurs, popular opinion is that many other politicians are guilty to a degree of the same misconduct. In this light, some believe that Mr. Blagojevich’s sentence was too harsh.
Mr. Milken, throughout his career and imprisonment, has made significant contributions to the financial sector and medical research and is considered to have done much more public good than harm. He is viewed by many as a market trading revolutionary, yet he was sentenced to a decade in prison for crimes related to insider trading. During the trial, public and political emotions were running hot and likely influenced the severity of the jail term.
Clemency is often necessary to mitigate prosecutors’ political inclination to press for undeserving fines and prison terms. Punishment may be unavoidable for those indicted for white-collar crimes; however, an experienced attorney might have strategies for calming the outrage and avoiding a harsh sentence.