Bush's top pardon prospects.

The law, lawyers, and the court.
Nov. 20 2008 7:00 AM

I Beg Your Pardon

The top prospects for a last act of Bush clemency.

Attention, convicts: Time is running out to get applications to the pardon attorney at the Justice Department if you're hoping President Bush will be your decider. Few of you should get your hopes up—Bush has rejected a record number of requests for pardons and commutations. In the last eight years, he has pardoned 157 people—a miserly sum compared with his predecessors. But you don't have to give up entirely: More are expected in the coming months, most notably for Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Before President Clinton went on a pardon spree for wealthy friends and campaign contributors at the end of his presidency, pardons and commutations were traditionally bestowed on average citizens who had successfully reformed their lives and given back to their communities after completing lengthy sentences. Pardon experts believe that of the Bush prospects, the 1980s junk-bond king Michael Milken best fits the rich-and-famous description.

Most of the other top prospects for pardon listed below have, like Milken, been convicted and served prison time. But not all. People who are merely charged could be eligible for pardons, as Bush's father demonstrated when he pardoned former Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger. And Washington is abuzz with the prospect that Bush might issue pre-emptive pardons for government employees who could face trouble in the future stemming from their roles in his "war on terror."


We've rated potential pardonees' chances from zero to four "Get out of Jail Free" cards.



Marion Jones: unlikely. This disgraced Olympic gold medalist returned five awards after she was sentenced to six months in jail in January for lying to federal agents about using steroids. She was released on Sept. 5. Jones' offense is considered mild, and her sentence was brief, but the president may not want to reward someone who cost the United States Olympic gold.

Michael Vick:no chance. The Atlanta Falcons' suspended quarterback is serving a 23-month sentence in Leavenworth, Kan., for criminal conspiracy relating to dog fighting. Yuck. There just isn't much of a pro-dog fighting lobby to pull for Vick.

Barry Bonds: unlikely. The former San Francisco Giants superstar who holds the MLB all-time record for home runs was indicted in November 2007 for lying about his involvement in a steroids scandal. Bonds became a free agent last year but has been unable to find a team willing to sign him while under indictment. As a former baseball team owner, Bush may be sympathetic to Bonds. But let's be honest—who in baseball likes Barry?



Florita Bell Griffin:possible. As governor, Bush appointed Griffin to the oversight board of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. In 2000, she was convicted of bribery, theft, and money laundering. In 2003, a federal appeals court overturned a separate conviction for mail fraud. Griffin has two things going for her: Bush and Texas. Bush has pardoned more of his fellow Texans than residents of any other state.