By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor
On April 26, President Biden used his pardon powers as President for the first time.
The White House announced three pardons and the commuted sentences of 75 nonviolent drug offenders. The move by President Biden follows calls by justice reform activists to use the pardon power to correct disproportionate justice impacting minorities in the U.S.
Biden’s pardon list included Abraham Bolden, Sr., an 86-year-old former U.S. Secret Service agent who was the first African American to serve on a presidential detail.
“In 1964, Mr. Bolden was charged with offenses related to attempting to sell a copy of a Secret Service file. His first trial resulted in a hung jury, and following his conviction at a second trial, even though key witnesses against him admitted to lying at the prosecutor’s request, Mr. Bolden was denied a new trial and ultimately served several years in federal custody. He has steadfastly maintained his innocence, arguing that he was targeted for prosecution in retaliation for exposing unprofessional and racist behavior within the U.S. Secret Service.
Mr. Bolden has received numerous honors and awards for his ongoing work to speak out against the racism he faced in the Secret Service in the 1960s, and his courage in challenging injustice. Mr. Bolden has also been recognized for his many contributions to his community following his release from prison,” a statement from the White House regarding Bolden’s pardon read.
Dexter Eugene Jackson, 52, of Athens, Ga., was pardoned by Biden for his 2002 conviction for using his business to facilitate the sale of marijuana. “Since his release from custody, Mr. Jackson has converted his business into a cell-phone repair service and hired local high school students through a program that seeks to provide young adults with work experience. Mr. Jackson has also worked to build and renovate homes in a community that lacks quality affordable housing,” the White House release stated.
Betty Jo Bogans, 51, of Houston, received a pardon for her 1998 conviction of possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine. Bogan, a single mother with no record, received a seven-year sentence because of harsh penalties at the time. “At the time of her conviction, Ms. Bogans was a single mother with no prior record, who accepted responsibility for her limited role in the offense. Because of the harsh penalties in place at the time she was convicted, Ms. Bogan received a seven-year sentence. In the nearly two decades since her release from custody, Ms. Bogans has held consistent employment, even while undergoing treatment for cancer, and has focused on raising her son.”
The number of pardons indicate Biden may have many more to come. The use of the pardon power varies from President to President. Donald Trump used it several times to send political messages and celebrity cases.
Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist and the host of the podcast BURKEFILE. She is a political analyst who appears regularly on #RolandMartinUnfiltered. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke