Giants' Tynes Seeks Pardon for Brother

Presidential pardon sought for marijuana trafficking conviction.

Dec. 7, 2008 -- This year was a big one for New York Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes.

He made an historic field goal that won the Giants a ticket to the Super Bowl. A Super Bowl they went on to win. The victory got him a visit to the White House with the rest of his teammembers.

He still remembers the moment clearly, "He shook my hand and said congratulations."

Now almost a year later, Tynes is asking for something much bigger from the president -- his brother's early release from prison.

"I think I'm doing this because I do love my brother, I care about him… I'd love to spend some time with him outside of prison walls."

In 2004, Mark Tynes was convicted for trafficking marijuana across state lines. His childhood friends, also involved, took plea deals and were released, but Mark was sentenced to 27 years.

Tynes says his brother should do time, but he believes the punishment was disproportionate to the crime.

"We're not making Mark out to be a saint, he's had some previous charges. But the bottom line is you don't take someone whose previous charges were for selling marijuana, and give him 27 years."

Granting clemency is a presidential power enshrined in the Constitution. And presidents use the power to varying degree.

So far President Bush has only granted 171 pardons and 8 sentence commutations in his entire administration. That's the fewest number of granted clemency requests by of any president except his father George H.W. Bush.

Besides the subjectivity of the president, petitioners also have to deal with a tedious pardons process that many say is in disarray.

For starters, there are simply more clemency requests to handle. Since Gerald Ford's famous pardon of Richard Nixon in 1974, the number of clemency requests received by the federal government has increased sixfold.

It can take months to do all the paperwork associated with a clemency request and there's no guarantee it will ever get reviewed. Today, there are roughly 2,000 clemency petitions at the Department of Justice still pending.

George Lardner is an associate with the Center for the Study of the Presidency in Washington D.C and he's writing a book on presidential pardons.

"These days I think its safe to say hundreds are denied en masse. Huge lists go over to the White House, denied, denied, deny, deny and I don't think they're very well investigated or scrutinized."

Another major obstacle to winning a clemency request is having to compete with those who have powerful political connections. There is a long list of high profile felons asking for pardons or reduced sentences, including Michael Milken, the former junk bond king who broke securities laws; disgraced CEO Bernie Ebbers, who was convicted in the accounting scandal that brought down WorldCom; and former Illinois Governor George Ryan, who is currently serving time on fraud charges.

All three men have applied for pardons.

Two politicians convicted of corruption, have applied for shorter prison terms: former California Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham and former Louisiana governor Edwin W. Edwards. So has John Walker Lindh, the so-called "American Taliban" who was captured during the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.

There is also speculation the president might Pardon Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the former chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney found guilty of lying in the Valerie Plame case.

Some Republicans hope Bush issues so-called "preemptive" pardons to protect some former aides, like Attorney General Alberto Gonzales or C.I.A Director George Tenant.

They haven't been convicted of anything, but a pardon could protect them if they are ever charged as a result of their role in controversial policies like the domestic wiretapping program and the harsh treatment of terrorism suspects.

There is even speculation that pitching great Roger Clemens might seek a preemptive pardon, to protect him from any charges arising from baseball's steroid scandal.

George Lardner of the Center for the Study of the Presidency says the political jockeying plus the administrative backlog make it tough for most petitioners to get a fair shot at their last chance.

New York Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes knows that money and fame can help and he has a bit of both.

He hired an experienced attorney with strong ties to the Republican Party to handle his brother's clemency request. But even that may not be enough to get his brother out of prison before the age of 50.

Tynes knows the odds are slim and for his family, he says this is the hail Mary pass.

"If I can go to my grave knowing that I fought, and did everything I can for my brother, then I am at peace with that."