United States President Joe Biden has granted the first three pardons of his presidency.
Those provided clemency on Tuesday included a Kennedy-era US Secret Service agent who was convicted of federal bribery charges connected to allegations he tried to sell a classified file. The agent, Abraham Bolden Sr, has maintained he was set up for speaking out against racist and unprofessional behaviour in the Secret Service.
Biden also pardoned two people who were convicted on drug-related charges but went on to become pillars in their communities, and commuted the sentences of 75 others for non-violent, drug-related convictions.
“America is a nation of laws and second chances, redemption, and rehabilitation,” Biden said in a statement announcing the clemencies, which accompanied the launch of a series of job-training and reentry programmes for those in prison or recently released.
“Elected officials on both sides of the aisle, faith leaders, civil rights advocates, and law enforcement leaders agree that our criminal justice system can and should reflect these core values that enable safer and stronger communities.”
Bolden, now 86, was the first Black Secret Service agent to serve on a presidential detail. In 1964, he faced federal bribery charges connected to allegations he attempted to sell a copy of a Secret Service file.
His first trial resulted in a hung jury. He was found guilty in a second trial, but was denied a retrial after key witnesses admitted to lying at the prosecutor’s request.
Bolden, who served six years in prison, has maintained his innocence and wrote a book about his ordeal.
Also pardoned were Betty Jo Bogans, 51, who was convicted in 1998 of possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine in Texas after attempting to transport drugs for her boyfriend and his accomplice, and Dexter Jackson 52, of Athens, Georgia, who was convicted in 2002 of using his pool hall to facilitate the trafficking of marijuana.
The White House highlighted ways both had served their communities in the wake of their convictions.
Civil rights and criminal justice reform groups have pushed the White House to commute sentences and work harder to reduce disparities in the criminal justice system, particularly when it comes to low-level drug offenders who would face much lighter punishments if charged today.
The US Constitution grants the president the right to pardon individuals who have been convicted of federal crimes.