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Pollard places hopes in courts, not pardon
Hopes for a pardon dashed, Pollard backers look to courts
By Michael J. Jordan
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
January 24, 2001
NEW YORK, With a presidential pardon denied,
Jonathan Pollard's best chance for freedom after 15 years behind bars is
again through the court system, according to advocates for the convicted
Pollard's new attorneys are expected to push to set aside the guilty
verdict and hold a new trial.
Pollard supporters had hoped that President Clinton, who came close to
releasing Pollard as part of an American-brokered Mideast peace deal in
October 1998, would include him among his final presidential pardons to
release the former U.S. Navy intelligence officer.
Many even anticipated that Clinton, who rebuffed heavy pressure from
former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Pollard's behalf, would
issue the pardon as a ``gift" to boost beleaguered Prime Minister Ehud
chances for re-election in Israel's Feb. 6 election.
It is widely believed that Clinton was swayed by the intelligence
community's opposition to freeing Pollard, and the new administration of
George W. Bush is expected to be even more beholden to the defense
Nevertheless, on his first workday as president, Bush was immediately
beseeched by Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY) to ``show compassion"
and grant Pollard clemency.
Other supporters, meanwhile, vented their anger that Clinton refused to
include Pollard in a flurry of last-minute pardons before he left office
``To be harsh, I think it reflects a lack of guts," said Seymour Reich,
former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish
Organizations. In the early 1990s, Reich was among the first Jewish leaders
speak out publicly on Pollard's behalf.
President Clinton ``seems to have pardoned, or exercised clemency, for
those people for whom there was no prior publicity," Reich said. ``He would
have been criticized for pardoning Pollard, but people would have forgotten
would have been a gesture toward the people and the state of Israel."
Clinton also did not pardon Michael Milken, the convicted junk bond
king who is a major contributor to Jewish day schools in California.
However, Clinton did pardon four New York men convicted of fraud
and embezzlement in a scheme to use federal money to finance a fictitious
yeshiva. He also pardoned Marc Rich, a major benefactor to Israeli museums
who fled the United States to evade alleged racketeering and tax evasion
Pollard, a U.S. Navy intelligence analyst, was sentenced in 1987 to
in prison for spying for Israel. He pleaded guilty to one count of passing
classified information, albeit to an American ally.
In a plea bargain with prosecutors, Pollard reportedly agreed to talk
condition that he would not receive life imprisonment. Supporters cite his
sentence as proof that he was ``double-crossed" by the government.
Pollard reportedly has been incarcerated longer than any other
American ever convicted of spying for a U.S. ally.
Clinton's own vulnerability on military issues -- he was accused of
dodging the draft for the Vietnam War, a major issue in his 1992
campaign -- made him especially sensitive to pressure from the defense
establishment, observers suggested.
``The president has always had difficulty with the military. He never
served, and it even took him a while to learn to salute when getting off Air
Force One," Reich said. ``I guess he didn't want that criticism from the
intelligence community as a legacy."
Despite mounting pressure from a number of Jewish politicians and
community leaders, clemency from Clinton always was a long shot, Pollard
``We tried to be realistic about it," said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive
vice chairman of the Presidents Conference, which lobbied the Clinton
``I thought this was the opportunity for the president, and I'm
disappointed he didn't take it," Hoenlein said. ``It's regrettable that we
close this chapter, at least on humanitarian grounds."
Pollard reportedly suffers from an infected gall bladder, serious sinus
problems, and other ailments.
Pollard himself was upset by Clinton's denial but is ready to continue
his battle, said Rabbi Pesach Lerner, a Pollard confidant.
Lerner, executive vice president of the National Council of Young
Israel, said he spoke with Pollard Monday morning from Pollard's jail cell
``Deep down, intellectually, I don't think he was expecting it, but
emotionally all of us were hoping for" clemency, Lerner said. ``But I have
say, he perked up and said, 'OK, it's behind me, we have to keep going.'
really amazing. I don't know what any of us would do in that situation."
Lerner called on the Jewish community to redouble its efforts to
``demand basic justice" for Pollard.
``I'm not justifying what Jonathan Pollard did. He's told people he
blew it, that he broke the law. He accepts that. But that's not the issue,"
said. ``What he did was worth a couple years in prison. Now he's in his 16th
year in prison. Some of that time in a mental unit, part of it in solitary
confinement. No similar case has matched the punishment Jonathan has
The Jewish community has to get out en masse, demanding that Pollard
gets his day in court, Lerner said.
``If you don't want to come out for Jonathan Pollard, fine," he said.
``But come out for fair play.''