Thursday, November 20, 2008

Will Ted Stevens Take a Pardon or Fight on with His Appeal?

Portland, Oregon—

As noted earlier this week, Ted Stevens has not ruled out seeking a pardon from President George W. Bush. The pardon would wipe out his felony convictions and eliminate the risk that District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan would sentence him to prison.

A pardon would not reverse the convictions, however—it would just erase them. As such, a pardon would not provide Stevens with what he seems to want most, which is a clearcut vindication of his innocence through a successful appeal that would allow Stevens to say that his name had been cleared. (This assumes that a successful appeal would not be followed by another trial and another conviction—which is a tricky assumption.)

Timing is also an issue. Stevens’ opportunity for a pardon would appear to evaporate with President Bush’s departure from office on January 20. Stevens cannot begin his appeal until after his sentencing, which will not occur before a status hearing set for February 25. (Another assumption here: This blog predicts that Judge Sullivan will not overturn the jury’s guilty verdicts, and will instead sentence Stevens and thereby let him proceed with his appeal.)

The above analysis leads to two questions:

1. Will Ted Stevens take a course that most people convicted of felonies would think was insane, and turn down the opportunity to get a pardon so that he could pursue his appeal?

2. In 20 years, what will be remembered most: The impressive record of achievement in public service over more than five decades—including 40 years in the U.S. Senate—or the felony convictions that contributed heavily to the end of his career?

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