Clinton Pardons McDougal, Hearst, Others

ByABC News

W A S H I N G T O N, Jan. 20, 2001 -- President Clinton today pardoned his former Whitewater business partner Susan McDougal and 139 others, including newspaper heiress Patty Hearst and former CIA chief John Deutch.

In one of his final acts before leaving office at noon today, Clinton also pardoned his own brother, Roger, convicted of a drug charge; Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros; four people convicted as a result of the investigation conducted by special counsel Kenneth Starr; and eight people convicted following an investigation of the U.S. Agriculture Department.

However, Clinton did not pardon his wife's former law partner, Webster Hubbell; Leonard Peltier, convicted of the murder of two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota in 1975; or junk-bond financier Michael Milken.

Milken's pardon was strongly opposed by Richard Walker, enforcement director of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Clinton pardoned or commuted the sentences of everyone convicted in an independent counsel's probe, conducted by Donald Smaltz, of influence-peddling at the Agriculture Department under former Secretary Mike Espy.

Clinton and his allies had been even more critical of that inquiry than the one conducted by Starr, which led to the revelations of his involvement with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Caught By Surprise

The Deutch pardon was a surprise to many in Washington today, including Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder's office. His office apparently did not know of the pending presidential pardon Friday when Attorney General Janet Reno gave the approval for investigators to make a deal with Deutch, sources tell ABCNEWS.

The former CIA director had been under investigation for sloppy handling of secret files.

It remains unclear exactly what the Justice Department charged him with.

Sources say the White House's list of pardons says only that Deutch was pardoned "for those offenses described in the Information dated January 19, 2001."

However, the Information, a charging document that usually accompanies a plea, has not been filed publicly yet. It's possible the deal was made after courts closed, meaning the documents couldn't be filed until Monday.

Loyal Friend To Clinton

McDougal's pardon follows Clinton's announcement Friday that he had reached an immunity deal with Independent Counsel Robert W. Ray. The deal allows Clinton to avoid indictment in the Whitewater investigation in return for giving up his law license for five years and admitting he gave false testimony under oath.

Convicted at a 1996 trial in which Clinton testified in her defense, McDougal has stood loyally behind the president. She defied Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's investigation at almost every turn, appearing on national television in her orange prison jumpsuit to refute Starr's charge Clinton was involved in illegal loans related to the mid-1980s Whitewater land venture.

McDougal's lawyer said today his client was "ecstatic" at news of her pardon for mail fraud, misapplication of funds, false entries in a government report, and false statements. "She no longer has to carry around that badge of dishonor of being a convicted felon and she deserves it," said attorney Mark Geragos.

When pardoned, a person is no longer considered a felon and regains any privileges, such as voting, that might have been denied because of the conviction. It does not, however, mean the conviction is expunged from the person's record. In comparison, a commutation (Clinton granted 36 commutations today) only reduces a criminal penalty. For example, shortening a prison sentence.

McDougal served three-and-a-half months of a two-year prison term for the four felony convictions before a federal judge released her because of back problems.

But her freedom was short-lived when she refused a judge's order to answer Whitewater prosecutor's questions before a federal grand jury. She returned to jail for 18 months for civil contempt.

Frustrated, Starr's office decided to prosecute McDougal for criminal contempt. Her refusal to cooperate, they said, obstructed the grand jury investigation. The jury deadlocked on the matter and prosecutors opted not to retry her.

McDougal's former husband, failed Arkansas savings and loan operator James McDougal, took a dramatically different path than his wife. He was convicted at the same 1996 trial, but cooperated with Starr's office and implicated the Clintons for wrongdoing before his death in prison.

Clinton today pardoned three others convicted during Starr's investigation: Stephen Smith, a former University of Arkansas professor and top aide to Clinton when he was governor of Arkansas, convicted of conspiracy; Robert W. Palmer, who pleaded guilty in 1994 to a felony count of conspiracy for filing false real estate appraisals; and Chris Wade, a Whitewater real estate agent who pleaded guilty in 1995 to two felony counts including bankruptcy fraud.

Hearst, Cisneros and Others

The Symbionese Liberation Army kidnapped Hearst in 1974 when she was 19. The young heiress, who eventually joined the SLA, was captured, convicted of bank robbery in San Francisco and sentenced to two years in prison, a sentence President Carter cut short.

Her lawyer, George Martinez of Tiburon, Calif., issued a written statement today, saying his client is "profoundly grateful to Presidents Clinton and Carter for their faith in her, and relieved that this process has finally concluded."

In 1985 Roger Clinton pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute cocaine and received a two-year sentence after cooperating with authorities and testifying against other drug defendants. Since then he's focused on his entertainment career.

Cisneros pleaded guilty in 1999 to misdemeanor charges that he lied to the FBI about payments to a former mistress. He resigned as housing secretary amidst the scandal in 1996.

After leaving office, Cisneros served as head of Univision, the country's largest Spanish-language television network. Last year he switched gears again and returned to his hometown of San Antonio where he launched an organization that provides housing to low-income families.

MacDonald, the former leader of the Navajo Nation, was removed from office for taking bribes and kickbacks. Since 1992, McDonald, 72 and in failing health, has been in a Fort Worth, Texas, medical prison serving a 14-year sentence for inciting a Window Rock, Ariz., riot that resulted in the deaths of two of his supporters in 1989.

ABCNEWS' Josh Gerstein and Beverley Lumpkin contributed to this report.