Superbowl ads are a spectacle. An estimated 100 million viewers tune in. Rather than watch, I listened to the exciting game on the Echo Dot. Chiefs' games typically are suspenseful.
No sooner had the game concluded than news outlets were opining about the Trump ad in which Alice Marie Johnson is free to hug her family and start over. She receiving a commuted sentence by Trump after she served 21 years of a life sentence for conspiring to possess cocaine, attempted possession of cocaine, and money-laundering. The ad states that thousands of families are being reunited with incarcerated loved ones and that Trump is accomplishing criminal justice reform.
Critics say Kim Kardashian West lobbied for Johnson’s release in 2018 and enlisted a team of appellate lawyers to work on her case, which led to an Oval Office meeting with Trump. Of Trump’s six commutations granted as of when Ms. Johnson was freed, two had been celebrity commutations.
The previous celebrity commutation was pled to the president by Sylvester Stallone, on behalf of a boxer who had already passed away. Celebrity commutations: Is that a thing? Maybe there is a special category for high-profile ‘Celebrity Crimes’ and celebrities are not actually replacing attorneys for advocacy work.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio, aka "America’s Toughest Sheriff," was granted clemency. He was actually a former sheriff, having been voted out of office after garnering $140 million in lawsuits, mostly for civil rights violations and law enforcement misconduct proceedings, self-dealing and political abuse of power. Arpaio is claimed to have been malfeasant in some 400 rape and molestation cases. He arrested two journalists who opposed him politically. Due to lack of space, let's just say he was bold and controversial. Attorneys use this saying to describe clients who get into compound legal trouble: “Get in line.” As if 3,500 past lawsuits are not enough to badge Trump with “Get in line,” he will be facing the bulk of the Mueller Report prosecutions coming out of his own Justice Department once he leaves office, from the prosecutions that cannot be charged against a sitting president but which may, under the Constitution, be charged against a former president.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was serving 30 months and paying $250,000 after being prosecuted for multiple obstruction of justice crimes. Scooter’s charges were related to outing CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson, wife of a U.S. ambassador, in retaliation for whistleblowing information weakening the grounds for invading Iraq.
Dinesh D’Souza is an author, filmmaker, and conspiracy theorist, often described as a far-right political provocateur. He was prosecuted for felony political campaign law violation after donating $20,000 to a New York state Senate campaign. He claimed everybody does it, he didn’t know it was illegal, and the law was selectively enforced. But when he couldn’t prove "everybody does it," he was sentenced to eight months in community incarceration, five years on probation and a $30,000 fine. He was pardoned by Trump.
Commuting one symbolic black person is a clumsy campaign tactic intended to engender black voters, of whom about 60 percent of eligibles voted in 2016, and who comprise about 12.5 percent of voters. Reuniting thousands of families is disingenuous in light of the humanitarian crisis created by Trump’s “Zero Tolerance” policy on the Southern border. Individual pardons are not criminal justice reform.
Critics remember Trump’s Central Park Five ad, and how he badgered Colin Kaepernick. Never forget that "Black Lives Matter" and "Thin Blue Line" were bottled into divisive conflicts to make Trump seem electable.
Kathy Tibbits is a Cherokee citizen, attorney, and artist living at Lake Tenkiller.