Pardon attorney botched case of man who got triple life for simply introducing two drug dealers


by Dr. Boyce Watkins

A man’s life was ruined when the US Pardon Attorney failed to communicate critical information to the White House about his case for sentence commutation.  All of this according to facts released by the Justice Department Inspector-General in a 20-page report.

It all involves the case of Clarence Aaron, who was given a triple life sentence for introducing two people who engaged in a drug deal. Because facts were hidden and due to irresponsibility by those who have power within the legal system, Aaron has been in prison since 1993.  He was sentenced at the age of 24.

According to the report, pardons attorney Ronald L. Rodgers engaged in “conduct that fell substantially short of the high standards expected of Department of Justice employees and the duty he owed the President of the United States.”

Rogers may be led to pay a price for his neglect.  The Inspector-General’s Office said that it would report its findings “to the Office of the Deputy Attorney General for a determination as to whether administrative action is appropriate.”

Fortunately, the Inspector General has the good sense to order additional investigations to find similar cases that contain such blatant misconduct on the part of Rogers or anyone else in his office.   Rogers didn’t support Aaron’s release, which allegedly led him to withhold key information from the White House about the man’s case.  But Aaron’s case for commutation had already received strong support from the prosecutor’s office in Mobile, Alabama.

Kenneth Lee, associate White House Counsel in 2008 when Aaron’s case came forth, said that he would have supported the commutation had he seen all the evidence.

Various organizations are calling for Rogers to resign from the pardons office, including my own.  I had a meeting this morning with FAMM, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, to discuss our partnership with Russell Simmons to address the  mass incarceration epidemic.  When I heard about the case of Mr. Aaron, I became sick to my stomach.  The idea that a young man lost his life due to bureaucratic arrogance should not be tolerated by any of us.

Additionally, for every Clarence Aaron, there are hundreds of other faceless Americans who suffer under the thumb of mass incarceration.  Families are destroyed by this Draconian (and racist) sentencing epidemic, and the reduction of the crack-to-powder disparity has not even been applied retroactively to those who were sentenced under laws of the past.   This problem not only leads to increases in crime due to all of the children growing up with parents in prison, but it’s costly to our society as well.

President Obama knows that the War on Drugs was an abysmal failure.  He is also aware that the power of the presidential pen can do wonders for changing the lives of countless numbers of American families.  In spite of this, the president is inexplicably fearful of granting commutation or clemency, even in cases where the punishment surely does not fit the crime.  I think that in this country, we’ve lost the understanding of what the word “justice” actually means.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a professor at Syracuse University and author of the book, “Black American Money.” To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

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  1. Racism exists in all professions and at all levels. Black folk should know this by now! let’s stop being stupified by these realities and do what we can about it.

    First of all, the racists principalities and powers in high places do not fear a Black response. Our so-called leaders run from city to city with a placard in their hands simulating a protest of injustice. When entering a city, the leader should initiate an aggressive voter registration program and form a committee of respected locals to hear, investigate, and present complaints to elected officials. Whether or not the complaints are resolved satisfactorily will determine whether or not those elected officials receive an endorsement from the community aggrieved.

    Even racist America respects the power of the vote and the dollar – and in that order. Let’s work diligently on garnering enough power to get enough respect!

  2. When are we as African Americans going to realize the we have no justice when we leave laws into the hands of other people such as public defenders etc… The laws are made to send minorites to jail. Just look around and see who gets sentened and who get probation or the charges dropped.

  3. With all the junk going on in america I am not surprized at what this country is doing to black men they don't think too much of us when our being black is equal to that of homosexuals if this country is number one number two must be really stink.

  4. We as black people, very few incourage our children and our neighbor's to go to school for a profession. We go to school to learn to work for others. Some slip through the cracks and become doctors, lawyers and so on. I hate it when I hear of black men and women going to slave camps (jail) for minor things. But, our own people are so feed up with our own people that they join up with white people and don't or give half representation. If black lawyers and judges would join together and fight for our own who looks like not only them but their children and grandchildren to come. I believe that President Obama will fight for you. But you must start the ball rolling. If I were him, I would not stick my neck out there while you sit back and do nothing. He right now has a lot on his plate. Sharpton fights and a few others. There are many of us in this country. Learn to get mad mad enough and fight back. It is call RESPECT YOURSELF. If you don't respect yourself, then no one is going to give a hop-te hop.

  5. RODGERS should be forced to resign! and not only that send him to prison for a while and let him see how it feels! it is deplorable what the system is doing to destroy the families, enough is enough! when are you going to stop launching attacks against our black men? introducing people? really? what's next?

  6. Now yall no this is wrong this brotha shouldn't even be in jail. FREE this man all yall doing is making money off of him slavery is over white people your time is up stop fighting it.

    • Put Rodgers in there instead for his "administrative" malfeasance. Christ. "Wrong" doesn't begin to cover this &*&$.

  7. WHAT.THE.HELL. Tar, Feathers. Prison for simply introducing two guys?

    • My thoughts exactly. Triple life sentence for introducing people to one another is absolutely absurd and his attorney allowed something that petty to ruin his life. His attorney really do need to be removed from the Bar and never allowed inside a courthouse again to represent anyone (lose his license to practice law).

  8. If it was a doctor, the doctor would be suited for malpractice and lose his license to practice medicine. It's an attorney that took an oath to help his client and he failed to do it therefore, he should face the same penalty (lose his license to practice law).