President Trump, during his one term in office, has used clemency power on behalf of convicted liars and crooked politicians, some of whom have been his friends. But the long list of pardons his team has prepared for him to sign on his final full day in office includes the names of people who have been serving life sentences for drug or fraud charges and who for years have been seeking clemency.
In the past, the administration has emphasized clemency for low-level offenders in order to blunt criticism that Mr. Trump was inappropriately offering pardons to people to whom he had personal connections. Tuesday’s group includes non-violent offenders whose names have been percolating for years among advocates who believe their punishments never fit their crimes and whose cases underscore the broken nature of the country’s criminal justice system.
The names were recommended by a group that included Alice Johnson, who has been working with #Cut50, a prisoner advocacy group, and Mark Holden, a former executive at Koch Industries. Ms. Johnson herself was granted a full pardon after speaking on Mr. Trump’s behalf at the Republican National Convention and has continued to personally press Mr. Trump and his family members about their cases. The Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney was cut out of the process, as has been typical in the Trump White House.
Among those being pardoned Tuesday, according to people directly involved in the process, are Darrell Frazier, who has served more than 30 years of a life sentence for drug conspiracy charges. During his incarceration, Darrell founded The Joe Johnson Tennis Foundation, a nonprofit supporting children in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Craig Cesal has been serving a life sentence without parole on a marijuana charge. “My crime was that my truck repair business in Chicago fixed trucks operated by a Florida long-haul trucking company whose drivers trafficked marijuana in the south,” he told The Washington Post in 2016.
Lavonne Roach, a nonviolent drug offender, has been serving a 30-year sentence after she was charged with conspiracy to distribute meth. Ms. Roach, a Lakota Sioux woman, has been in prison since 1994.
Chalana McFarland was sentenced in 2005 to 30 years for multiple counts of mortgage fraud. She was sent to prison when her daughter was 4 years old. Since July, she has been serving her sentence at home because of concerns about the spread of the coronavirus in Florida prisons.
Michael Pelletier, a paraplegic who has used a wheelchair since he was 11, was serving a life sentence in federal prison for a nonviolent marijuana conspiracy offense.
Most clemency petitions sit with the Office of the Pardon Attorney for years, while certain people serving time on drug or fraud charges have gotten on the president’s radar through direct appeals from advocates the administration has come to rely on.
The final list, expected to be part of a broader package announced Tuesday by the president, was sent to the White House counsel’s office by Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and senior adviser, for vetting, according to one of the people who is directly involved.
Advocates said they were hopeful that the Biden administration would be able to revamp the clemency process, and that the pardons approved by Mr. Trump would give the next administration some cover with conservatives in the future.
Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, said the administration would not comment on the pardons.