Lame duck season is often seen as a boring, slow time for punditry, but there are lots of fun stories which crop up if you know where to look. For one thing, this is the season when Governors frequently take on the prickly problem of whether or not to issue rafts of pardons and sentence commutations before they head out the door. One of the first such stories to emerge comes out of Arkansas, where Governor Mike Beebe is packing his bags, being term limited out of office. But before he goes, he may have one special gift… for his own son.
Outgoing Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe said Wednesday he plans to pardon his son’s felony marijuana conviction, arguing he deserves the same second chance as hundreds of other nonviolent offenders.
Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample said the two-term Democratic governor would pardon Kyle Beebe, 34, who was convicted in 2003 of felony marijuana possession with intent to deliver. DeCample said the governor planned to formally announce his intent to pardon his son in early December.
Bebee doesn’t look like he has any (realistic) national aspirations at this point, so he probably doesn’t have to worry too much about this. Further, this is one of those non-violent pot related crimes which are under scrutiny at a national level. (Though to be fair, this was an intent to deal bust, not just some kid with a couple of joints in his glove box.) Perhaps more interesting is the pardon that Bebee probably won’t issue.
Beebe announced the pardon the same day he put on hold plans to pardon 34-year-old Michael Jackson, a childhood friend of his son and a former player on the peewee football team Beebe coached. There is a 30-day waiting period for public comment after Beebe announces intent to grant pardons before final action is taken.
Jackson was arrested in a 2007 Internet sting for trying to meet with an officer who posed as a 14-year-old girl in Faulkner County. He served a two-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to a felony charge for Internet stalking of a child. Beebe’s office said he had received an affidavit Wednesday in an unrelated child custody case involving Jackson that levied new accusations against Jackson.
Signing off on a pardon for a Chester the Molester charge would be a very different matter for Bebee’s legacy, so that probably won’t happen.
Other governors have more long term plans, though, and it will be enlightening to see how they handle similar choices. You may recall that Haley Barbour handed out more than 200 pardons when he left office – including some for murderers – which drew a lot of criticism. He was actually being talked about for a Presidential run in 2012, and that may have helped nudge him out of the race. Another politician with clearly stated national ambitions is Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, also leaving office in January and handing the keys to a Republican.
Will O’Malley hand out pardons while he is still considering a challenge to Hillary Clinton for the 2016 nomination? His history doesn’t make it look that way, since he’s been one of the stingiest Maryland governors on pardons in living memory. Breaking with that tradition now would only open him up to a new field of criticism, so pardon seekers in Maryland will probably have to cool their heels.