Jonathan and Esther Pollard Photo: Courtesy of Justice4JPIn a Kafkaesque nightmare, Jonathan Pollard was sentenced to life in prison, without benefit of trial, in violation of a plea agreement. Now, nearly three decades later, he is kept in chains by being denied access to his full sentencing file. His only remaining hope is presidential clemency.
A recent op-ed in The Jerusalem Post declares that President Barack Obama will never pardon Jonathan.
However, a pardon is not what Jonathan is seeking. He is seeking commutation of his sentence to the 28 years he has already served. Unlike a pardon which exonerates the offender, commutation merely corrects the sentence. Among those American officials who have first-hand knowledge of the case there is consensus that Jonathan’s sentence is grossly disproportionate. Even former heads of the CIA and the FBI have joined the calls for commutation.
Ignoring the grossly disproportionate sentence, suggesting that the sole basis of Jonathan’s request for clemency rests upon the US being caught spying on its allies, the author disingenuously suggests that since a pardon for Jonathan is unobtainable, the best way to help Jonathan is to lobby elsewhere. He suggests an alliance with African American groups to lobby the president to soften his pardon policy towards the broader American prison population, many of whom are suffering unjust sentences for drug crimes. This is how to help Jonathan?
Apparently President Obama, himself, may have put the lie to those who insist he will never grant clemency to Jonathan. Last week at the White House Hanukka party, when asked, the president clearly indicated that clemency for Jonathan is “under consideration.” This is heartening since Jonathan’s only hope of ending the Kafkaesque nightmare is presidential intervention.
Unlike Joseph K., the prisoner in Kafka’s The Trial who wakes up one morning to find himself arrested and pronounced guilty of a crime he has not committed, and no-one will tell him what it is he is guilty of, Jonathan knows what his crime was and he has never denied it, nor ceased to express remorse for it.
NEVERTHELESS, JONATHAN wakes up every morning to the reality that he has been sentenced to life in prison, without benefit of trial, in violation of a plea agreement, apparently for additional crimes which he did not commit, based on false allegations made in ex parte communication between the prosecution and the sentencing judge. The only way Jonathan can fight his way out of prison depends on access to the classified portions of his own sentencing file.
Like Joseph K., whose attempts to secure justice come up against a relentless bureaucratic nightmare, Jonathan is in the same situation. Appealing all the way up to the Supreme Court (which declined to hear the case), neither Jonathan nor his security-cleared attorneys have been able to gain access to the classified portions of his own sentencing file for nearly three decades. Without access, government elements with hostile agendas can say anything they wish about Jonathan without fear of ever being contradicted by the record.
This is how they have prevented his release for three decades and this is how they will continue to do so.
Ranking American officials who have seen the documents state that there is nothing in the file to justify Jonathan’s excessively harsh sentence or his prolonged incarceration.
In a recent letter to the president, Professor Angelo Codevilla, who is fully familiar with all of the material in the file (as part of the professional staff responsible for briefing the Senate Intelligence Committee after Jonathan’s arrest) offered to provide expert testimony for the president.
If reports out of the White House are credible that Jonathan’s request for commutation of his sentence to time served is “under consideration,” then for the first time in all the years that his petition has been sitting on the president’s desk, there is hope that Jonathan’s Kafkaesque nightmare may be brought to an end.
In a short while from now, the White House will be announcing the holiday clemencies. There is ample time for the president to exercise the option of reviewing the classified documents himself and receiving expert testimony, as well as the option of providing access to Jonathan’s security-cleared attorneys. Any fair evaluation of the documents can only mitigate in favor of a positive response to Jonathan’s request for commutation.
All Jonathan is asking for is basic fairness, the fairness that is synonymous with the American system of justice. All that is required to achieve it, is a stroke of the president’s pen.