WASHINGTON – In the waning weeks of his presidency, Donald Trump has issued a slew of pardons and commutations, including former members of Congress convicted of corruption charges, two people charged in the Russia investigation that shadowed his presidency and former government contractors convicted in a 2007 massacre in Baghdad that left more a dozen Iraqi civilians dead.
Also included is Philip Esformes, a former Miami Beach businessman and health care executive who was convicted on 20 criminal counts in what prosecutors described as a $1 billion Medicare fraud scheme, one of the biggest such cases in U.S. history.
Here’s a look at the 20 people issued pardons or commutations on Tuesday:
FORMER REP. CHRIS COLLINS:
Collins, a Republican from New York, was sentenced to serve two months in federal prison after he admitted to helping his son and others dodge $800,000 in stock market losses when he learned that a drug trial by a small pharmaceutical company had failed. He was the first member of Congress to endorse Trump’s presidency.
EX-REP. DUNCAN HUNTER:
Hunter, a Southern California Republican, was sentenced in March to 11 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to stealing about $150,000 from his campaign funds to pay for a lavish lifestyle, from vacations to outings with friends, private school tuition and his daughter’s birthday party.
GEORGE PAPADOPOULOS AND ALEXANDER VAN DER ZWAAN:
Papadopoulos and van der Zwaan were both convicted in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Papadopoulos was the first Trump aide to plead guilty as part of Mueller’s investigation – pleading guilty to lying to the FBI – and served a nearly two-week sentence in federal prison. He was a foreign policy adviser to Trump’s campaign and admitted lying about a 2016 conversation with a Maltese professor who told him that Russia had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of stolen emails. He had learned from the professor, Joseph Mifsud, that Russia had thousands of stolen emails during a meeting in April 2016 in London. That revelation helped trigger the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation in July 2016 into potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign, which later morphed into part of Mueller’s probe.
Van der Zwaan was a Dutch lawyer who was fired from a prominent international law firm and admitted he lied to federal investigators about his interactions with former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates, who was also charged in Mueller’s investigation. Van der Zwaan had been sentenced to 30 days in prison
He and Papadopoulos became the third and fourth defendants in the Russia probe to be granted clemency
NICHOLAS SLATTEN, PAUL SLOUGH, EVAN LIBERTY AND DUSTIN HEARD:
The four men were government contractors convicted in a 2007 massacre in Baghdad that left more a dozen Iraqi civilians dead and caused an international uproar over the use of private security guards in a war zone. They were all serving lengthy prison sentences.
Prosecutors alleged the men, former veterans working as contractors for the State Department, launched an unprovoked attack in a busy traffic circle using sniper fire, machine guns and grenade launchers in September 2007 in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square. Defense lawyers argued their clients returned fire after being ambushed by Iraqi insurgents.
The former Texas Congressman was convicted of conspiring to bilk at least $775,000 from conservative foundations that intended the donations for charities and voter education. Prosecutors said Stockman, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 until 1997, and from 2013 until 2015, misused donations from the foundations for personal and political use. He failed in his 2014 bid for the U.S. Senate. The White House said Stockman had contracted coronavirus while in federal prison and has served more than two years of his 10-year sentence. Officials said he will still be required to serve some time under supervised release and pay about $1 million in restitution.
IGNACIO RAMOS AND JOSE COMPEAN:
Trump granted full pardons to Ramos and Compean, former U.S. Border Patrol agents who were convicted of shooting and wounding a Mexican drug smuggler near El Paso, Texas in 2005. Investigators said the agents never reported the shooting and tried to cover it up. They were convicted of assault and firearm charges and a judge in 2006 sentenced Ramos to 11 years in prison and Compean to 12 years. They were freed in 2009 after then-President George W. Bush commuted their sentences.
Lyman, a Republican from Utah who currently serves as a state representative, served 10 days in prison after he led a protest of about 50 ATV riders in a canyon home to Native American cliff dwellings that officials closed to motorized traffic. It came amid a push against federal control of large swaths of land and happened in the wake of an armed confrontation that Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy had with Bureau of Land Management over grazing fees. The Trump administration in 2017 lifted a ban on motorized vehicles in parts of the canyon but left restrictions in place through other areas where Lyman led his ride.
Angelos was 24 years old when he was sentenced in 2004 to 55 years in prison for bringing guns to marijuana deals, a sentence a federal judge was forced to impose because of mandatory minimum sentencing laws. He had no criminal record before he was convicted of selling $350 worth of marijuana to a police informant three times and prosecutors argued he was a gang member who carried a gun during two of those deals, though he was not accused of using or showing a weapon. The music producer was freed from prison in 2016. Utah Sen. Mike Lee petitioned former President Barack Obama to grant clemency to Angelos, as did the former federal judge who sentenced Angelos. Obama did not commute Angelos’ sentence but the man was instead released from prison after receiving a sentence reduction in court.
CRYSTAL MUNOZ, JUDITH NEGRON AND TYNICE NICHOLE HALLL:
Munoz, Negron and Hall had received executive clemency earlier this year and their cases represent the flood of requests that presidents typically receive.
The president commuted the remainder of Crystal Munoz’s sentence after granting her clemency in October. She had served 12 years of a 20-year prison sentence on a drug conspiracy charge after being convicted for her role in a marijuana smuggling ring. She contended her only role was drawing a map others allegedly used in moving the drugs from Mexico to Texas and that her lawyer failed to adequately defend her. She had been on federal supervised release before Tuesday’s commutation.
Negron had been serving 35 years at a Florida prison for health care fraud, conspiracy and money laundering when she was released in October. On Thursday, the president commuted the remainder of her term of supervised release.
Hall was convicted of drug charges and the White House said she served nearly 14 years of an 18-year sentence for allowing her apartment to be used to distribute drugs. Officials said Hall taught prison education programs to other inmates.
Their cases had been championed by criminal justice reform advocates like Alice Marie Johnson, whose life sentence Trump commuted in 2018 at the urging of reality TV star Kim Kardashian West and whose story Trump’s reelection campaign featured in a Super Bowl ad.
The pastor, convicted of drug possession charges, was issued a full pardon, supported by South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott. The White House said he became a pastor at Life Changer’s International Ministries after his conviction, mentors at-risk kids and led a prayer session at the United States Capitol after the 2015 shooting at a church in Charleston, South Carolina.
The former Florida health care executive was convicted on 20 criminal counts in what prosecutors described as a $1 billion Medicare fraud scheme, one of the biggest such cases in U.S. history. The wealthy Miami Beach businessman operated a network of nursing homes and assisted living facilities in South Florida and was found guilty of paying kickbacks and bribes to doctors and administrators so they would refer patients to his businesses. Esformes’ prison sentence was commuted by the president on Tuesday, but other aspects of his sentence, including supervised release and millions in restitution, remained intact. The White House said the commutation was supported by a number of former attorneys general and said Esformes is in declining health.
Costa is a dentist from Pittsburgh who pleaded guilty to a health care fraud charge related to false billing, served two years of probation and paid nearly $300,000 in fines and restitution. The White House said Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and former NFL football player Jerome Bettis had requested clemency for Costa and said Costa devoted much of his adult life to serving his community.
ALFRED LEE CRUM:
The 89-year-old pleaded guilty in 1952 — when he was 19 — to helping his wife’s uncle illegally distill moonshine. He served three years of probation and paid a $250 fine. The White House said Crum, of Oklahoma, has maintained a clean record and a strong marriage for nearly 70 years, attended the same church for 60 years, raised four children, and regularly participated in charity fundraising events.
Associated Press writers Zeke Miller, Jill Colvin, Eric Tucker, Michael Balsamo in Washington and Michelle Price in Las Vegas contributed to this report.