No pardon for Tobin on Bush’s final day

Posted Jan. 20, 2009, at 8:04 p.m.

Despite predictions in Washington, President Bush before leaving office did not pardon James Tobin, 48, of Bangor for his alleged role in a 2002 New Hampshire phone-jamming scheme.

In November, writers for Slate, Huffington Post and The Washington Post speculated that Tobin, who was Bush’s New England campaign chairman in 2004, would be one of the people the president pardoned during his last two months in office. But Bush did not pardon Tobin.

Although Tobin is still facing charges in federal court in Portland, his conviction in the phone-jamming scheme was overturned. Tobin was convicted in December 2006 by a federal jury in Concord, N.H., of being part of a conspiracy to jam phone lines in the 2002 election but acquitted on the more serious charge of violating residents’ constitutional right to vote.

After being considered a second time by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a three-judge panel earlier this month unanimously upheld the decision by the federal judge who presided over Tobin’s trial to dismiss the charges.

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Tobin is facing two counts of making false statements to the FBI on Oct. 12, 2003. He was indicted on Oct. 9 of last year on those charges by a federal grand jury. His Washington, D.C., attorneys have filed motions to dismiss the indictment, arguing, among other things, that the prosecution is “vindictive.” Federal prosecutors on Saturday filed their replies, arguing that the new charges were not vindictive but fell under the discretion afforded prosecutors.

A hearing on the motions has not been set.

A presidential pardon of a person facing charges but not convicted of a crime is unusual but not unheard of, according to Robert Spitzer, a professor of political science at the State University of New York at Cortland. Spitzer was interviewed Monday about presidential pardons by Radio Free Europe. A transcript is posted on its Web site.

A president has the power to pardon any person for any reason, Spitzer told Radio Free Europe, but most often pardons are issued to people convicted of crimes. The most well-known exception is former President Ford’s blanket pardon of his predecessor, President Nixon, who was named as “an unindicted co-conspirator” in some of the Watergate matters.

In the last days of his presidency, former President Clinton pardoned Marc Rich, who had been indicted on charges of tax evasion, tax fraud and illegally making oil deals with Iran. Rich, who raised money for Clinton’s campaigns, fled to Switzerland during his prosecution.

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