He didn’t pardon Dick Cheney, but President Bush almost certainly brightened the holidays for 20 federal criminals Tuesday afternoon when he handed down 19 pardons and commuted one sentence in the latest round of presidential mercy. Among those winning clemency from Bush — including the usual bunch of moonshiners and drug offenders — was a Parker man who pleaded guilty to felony counterfeiting charges in 1995.
Eric Charles Blanke, 42, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in San Diego for “Making impressions of obligations of the USA” — or somehow counterfeiting U.S. securities — according to court documents. Blanke pleaded guilty to violating a federal counterfeiting statute, a Class B felony, which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years or more imprisonment. Blanke got off easy, with three years’ probation and 50 hours of community service, but seems to have penalized himself without a reason since doing his time nearly a decade ago.
“When you have a 6-year-old daughter come up and ask, ‘Who did you vote for,’ and you couldn’t vote, it is hard,” Blanke told The Denver Post shortly after learning he’d been pardoned.
Trouble is, daddy could have voted in the last four presidential elections, at least under Colorado law. Contrary to popular belief, states set their own standards for voting, including whether felons can cast ballots. In Colorado, it makes no difference whether the crime is federal or state — once you’ve done the time, you’re free to register and vote, according to the secretary of state’s office. Felons sentenced to probation, like Blanke was, don’t even have to complete their sentence: “It is legal to register to vote and cast a vote while under a sentence of probation,” the secretary of state’s office says.
Blanke declined to elaborate on the crime that landed him first in federal court and then, 13 years later, on a list of presidential pardons, saying only he wasn’t guilty and accepted a plea bargain “without understanding the consequences.”
A Utah man pardoned by Bush on Tuesday sounds like he understood the consequences when he was fingered for looting Native American ruins in 1992, according to the Deseret News. David Lane Woolsey, along with another man, was convicted of violating the federal Archaeological Resources Protection Act and was sentenced to three years’ probation and 100 hours of community service.
Contemporary accounts in the same newspaper reported Woolsey and his cohort were spotted digging at ancient ruins near Escalante by hikers, who confronted the plunderers and asked if they knew what they were doing was illegal. “Only if you get caught,” Woolsey’s co-defendant said. “Better I dig it up than have the cows trample it.”
A man convicted of violating the Neutrality Act in 1948 for smuggling arms to the nascent state of Israel was issued a posthumous pardon by Bush. Charles Winters, who died in the 1980s, was hailed as an unsung hero of Israel by film director Steven Spielberg, who wrote Bush urging the pardon. “While a pardon cannot make Charlie Winters whole, and regrettably he did not live to see it,” the Associated Press quotes Spielberg, “it would be a fitting tribute to his memory and a great blessing to his family if this pardon is granted.”
The complete list of Dec. 23, 2008, presidential pardons and the commutation, from a Department of Justice release:
• William Thomas Alvis III – Flushing, Ohio
Offense: Possession of an unregistered firearm, 26 U.S.C. § 5861; distribution of cocaine, 21 U.S.C. § 841(a) (1).
Sentence: May 21, 1990; Northern District of West Virginia; 13 months in prison, five years of supervised release following the prison term.
• John Allen Aregood a/k/a Johnny (Sonny) Aregood – Riviera, Texas
Offense: Conspiracy to harbor and transport illegal aliens; 18 U.S.C. § 371, 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A)(ii)(iii).
Sentence: Nov. 21, 1996; Southern District of Texas; three years of probation, $1,000 fine.
• Eric Charles Blanke – Parker, Colo.
Offense: Making impressions of obligations of the United States; 18 U.S.C. § 474.
Sentence: July 21, 1995; Southern District of California; three years of probation conditioned on performance of 50 hours of community service.
• Steve Doyle Cavender – The Villages, Fla.
Offense: Conspiring to import, possess, distribute and dispense marijuana; importing and causing to be imported marijuana; possessing marijuana with intent to distribute; 18 U.S.C. § 371, 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 952(a).
Sentence: Aug. 6, 1973; Northern District of Alabama; six months in prison in a jail-type institution, five years of probation, two years of special parole.
• Marie Elena Eppens a/k/a Marie Elana Eppens – Lynden, Wash.
Offense: Conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute marijuana; 21 U.S.C. § 846.
Sentence: June 9, 1992; District of Nebraska; four years of probation conditioned on 60 days of confinement in a jail-type institution on work release, four months of home detention and performance of 200 hours of community service.
• Lydia Lee Ferguson a/k/a Lydia Lee Helland – Sun City, Ariz.
Offense: Aiding and abetting possession of stolen mail; 18 U.S.C. §§ 1708 and 2.
Sentence: Nov. 5, 1990; District of Arizona; 18 months in prison, 36 months of supervised release, $5,000 restitution.
• Eduviges Duvi Gonzalez-Matsumura a/k/a Eduviges Duvi Gonzalez – Clovis, Calif.
Offense: Aiding and abetting embezzlement of bank funds; 18 U.S.C. §§ 656 and 2.
Sentence: May 10, 1993; Central District of California; two months in prison, three years of supervised release conditioned on performance of 300 hours of community service.
• George Clarence Greene Jr. – Gray, Ga.
Offense: Mail fraud; 18 U.S.C. §§ 1341 and 2.
Sentence: Nov. 21, 1985; Northern District of Georgia; three years of probation, $1,000 fine.
• James Won Hee Kang a/k/a Won Hee Kang – South Barrington, Ill.
Offense: Trafficking in counterfeit goods; 18 U.S.C. § 2320.
Sentence: May 9, 1985; Northern District of Illinois; one year of probation, $5,000 fine.
• Alan Stephen Maiss – Reno, Nev.
Offense: Misprision of a felony; 18 U.S.C. § 4.
Sentence: Dec. 20, 1995; Eastern District of Louisiana; one year of probation, $5,000 fine.
• Richard Harold Miller – Tallahassee, Fla.
Offense: Conspiracy to defraud the United States; 18 U.S.C. § 371.
Sentence: April 13, 1993; Northern District of Florida; five years of probation, $10,000 fine.
• Delano Abraham Nixon – Neosho Rapids, Kan.
Offense: Forging the endorsement on a U.S. Treasury check; 18 U.S.C. § 495.
Sentence: Feb. 2, 1962; District of Kansas; three years of probation conditioned upon payment of restitution.
• John H. Overholt – Black Hawk, S.D.
Offense: Concealment of information affecting Social Security benefits; 42 U.S.C. § 408(a)(4).
Sentence: Feb. 2, 1998; District of South Dakota; two years of probation, $1,500 fine, $10,620 restitution.
• Morris Keith Parker – Georgetown, S.C.
Offense: Misprision of a felony; 18 U.S.C. § 4.
Sentence: Oct. 2, 1991; District of South Carolina; three years of probation conditioned on performance of 150 hours of community service.
• Robert Truman Reece – Redondo Beach, Calif.
Offense: 1 and 2. Unauthorized absence. 3. Unauthorized absence; missing ship’s movement.
Sentence: 1: Oct. 12, 1949; 15 days of confinement, 30 days of extra police duties and forfeiture of $15 pay per month for six months. 2: Nov. 28, 1949; six months of probation. 3: Sept. 21, 1950; forfeiture of $30 pay per month for two months and a bad conduct discharge. 1, 2 and 3: U.S. Navy court-martial.
• Donald Edward Roessler – Harrison, Ohio
Offense: Embezzlement of mail matter; 18 U.S.C. § 1709.
Sentence: April 19, 1971; Southern District of Ohio; two years of probation.
• Issac Robert Toussie – Brooklyn, N.Y.
Offense: False statements to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 18 U.S.C. § 1001; mail fraud, 18 U.S.C. § 1341.
Sentence: Sept. 22, 2003; Eastern District of New York; five months in prison, three years of supervised release conditioned on five months of home detention, $10,000 fine.
• Charles Thompson Winters – Miami
Offense: Conspiracy to export, and exportation, of a military aircraft to a foreign country in violation of the Neutrality Act of 1939; 22 U.S.C. § 448(a).
Sentence: Feb. 4, 1949; Southern District of Florida; 18 months in prison, $5,000 fine.
• David Lane Woolsey – St. George, Utah
Offense: Aiding and abetting violation of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act; 16 U.S.C. § 470ee (a) and 18 U.S.C. § 2.
Sentence: Oct. 6, 1992; District of Utah; three years of probation conditioned on performance of 100 hours of community service.
• Reed Raymond Prior – Des Moines, Iowa
Offense: Possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute; 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1).
Sentence: April 11, 1996; Southern District of Iowa; life in prison, 10 years of supervised release.
Terms of commutation: Prison sentence to expire on Feb. 23, 2009, leaving intact and in effect the 10-year term of supervised release with all its conditions.