Corrupt former Baltimore mayor would like a pardon from Trump

We’re expecting a flurry of pardons and commutations from Donald Trump before he moves out of the White House tomorrow morning. It’s no surprise that many people have been calling on Trump’s team to lobby for this sort of relief on behalf of their friends and associates. The list includes a number of famous (or infamous) people, as well as many inside of the President’s circle of friends and political associates. Two names in particular, however, really caught my attention this week. One is the former Mayor of Baltimore, Catherine Pugh. Regular readers will recall the endless coverage we provided here of her scandal-plagued administration and subsequent conviction on charges of official corruption and tax evasion. Now she’s hoping that Donald Trump will wipe away her sins with the stroke of his pen. (Baltimore Sun)

Convicted former Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh is among those seeking clemency from President Donald Trump as he reportedly prepares to issue 100 pardons and sentence commutations on his final full day in office Tuesday.

Pugh, 70, is seeking to have her three-year sentence commuted, according to a database of clemency appeals on the U.S. Department of Justice website. Her case’s status is listed as “pending.”

Pugh is a Democrat who held elected positions at the city and state level for two decades.

As a refresher, the person looking to have their sentence commuted was indicted on 11 counts of fraud, tax evasion, and conspiracy relating to her self-dealing “Healthy Holly” book scam. She pocketed nearly a million dollars from businesses and individuals who had business before the City Council. The scope of the grifting going on would be breathtaking in most places, though in Baltimore that really just describes another day ending in a “Y.”

Pugh avoided beginning her three year stretch in jail (to be followed by three years of probation) for many months thanks to COVID, but finally reported to the Federal Women’s Correctional Institution in Aliceville, Alabama in June of last year. While I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be considered for clemency under appropriate circumstances, Pugh’s crimes are particularly heinous because of the breach of public trust involved. Plenty of people have run scams that made them a lot of money, but Pugh was elected to be the caretaker of the public purse. She abused that power grossly, warping the system to drain funds that would have otherwise gone to serve the public good and pocketing them herself. Somehow, eight months doesn’t sound like enough of a sentence for such a list of offenses.

The other person approaching Trump with his hat in his hand is disgraced former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. And if you believe the gossip mill in the swamp, he’s got a pretty good shot at being sprung from the crowbar hotel. (Times of Israel)

Sheldon Silver, the disgraced former speaker of the New York State Assembly, is among the last tranche of people President Donald Trump will grant clemency before he leaves office Wednesday.

The New York Times reported Monday that Trump was set to pardon or commute the sentences of between 60 and more than 100 people.

The names will likely be a mix of people that justice reform activists say have been wronged by the criminal justice system, and figures who have paid intermediaries to lobby Trump for clemency, or whom Trump knows.

Sheldon Silver was the most powerful and influential Democrat in New York State politics for decades. In 2015 he was arrested on a bevy of corruption charges and allegations of influence-peddling to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. His lawyers managed to keep him out of the slammer for five years through a series of legal maneuvers, despite having been found guilty twice. But last summer he finally reported to prison for a six-year and six-month stretch at the Federal Correctional Institution in Otisville, New York. Much the same as Pugh, Silver is a person who abused his massive political power to line his own pockets at the expense of the taxpayers. It’s true that he’s 76 years old and has been dealing with some health issues, but that level of government malfeasance just seems like it merits more than seven months behind bars.

Batches of pardons and commutations being issued at the end of a presidential term are obviously nothing new. But if this is the use they are being put to, it’s certainly disheartening. Pardons are frequently justifiable in the cases of people who appear to have been sentenced overly harshly for the seriousness of their crimes. Pardoning Pugh and Silver would be the opposite. Trump would be taking what were already rather lenient sentences for gross violations of the public trust and converting them to minor slaps on the wrist.