President Barack Obama has granted the first pardons of his presidency, to nine people convicted of crimes including possessing drugs, counterfeiting and even mutilating coins.
No one well-known was on the list, and some of the crimes dated back decades or had drawn little more than a slap on the wrist in the first place -- such as the Pennsylvania man sentenced in 1963 to probation and a $20 fine for mutilating coins. The White House didn't explain the charge, but tampering with federal currency is a crime.
The White House declined to give details on the cases or comment on why these particular people were selected by a president who previously had only pardoned Thanksgiving turkeys.
Presidential pardons often come in the holiday season toward year's-end, but they can sometimes be extremely controversial, such as when Bill Clinton pardoned fugitive financier Marc Rich at the end of his presidency.
President George W. Bush drew heat for commuting the sentence of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, in the case of the 2003 leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity. But Bush rejected Cheney's vigorous urging that he later pardon Libby as well.
"The president was moved by the strength of the applicants' post-conviction efforts at atonement, as well as their superior citizenship and individual achievements in the years since their convictions," said White House spokesman Reid Cherlin. The White House announced the pardons Friday as Obama was in the air on the way home from a surprise visit to Afghanistan.
Obama has received 551 pardon petitions in the course of his presidency, of which he's denied 131, according to the Justice Department. Another 265 petitions were closed without presidential action.
The people pardoned were:
—James Bernard Banks, of Liberty, Utah, sentenced to two years of probation in 1972 for illegal possession of government property.
—Russell James Dixon, of Clayton, Ga., sentenced to two years of probation in 1960 for a liquor law violation.
—Laurens Dorsey, of Syracuse, N.Y., sentenced in 1998 to five years of probation and $71,000 in restitution for conspiracy to defraud by making false statements to the Food and Drug Administration.
—Ronald Lee Foster, of Beaver Falls, Pa., sentenced in 1963 to a year of probation and a $20 fine for mutilating coins.
—Timothy James Gallagher, of Navasota, Texas, sentenced in 1982 to three years of probation for cocaine possession and conspiracy to distribute.
—Roxane Kay Hettinger, Powder Springs, Ga., sentenced in 1986 to 30 days in jail and three years of probation for conspiracy to distribute cocaine.
—Edgar Leopold Kranz Jr., of Minot, N.D., who received 24 months of confinement and a pay reduction for cocaine use, adultery and bouncing checks.
—Floretta Leavy, of Rockford, Ill., sentenced in 1984 to 366 days in prison and three years of parole for drug offenses.
—Scoey Lathaniel Morris, of Crosby, Texas, sentenced in 1991 to three years of probation and $1,200 restitution for counterfeiting offenses.