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Biden issues first 3 pardons, including one for Secret Service agent who guarded JFK

By Ashley Williams & Daniel Uria
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Biden issues first 3 pardons, including one for Secret Service agent who guarded JFK
President Joe Biden issued the first pardons of his presidency on Tuesday -- including one to a man who guarded former President John F. Kennedy. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo

April 26 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden on Tuesday issued his first three pardons -- including one to a Secret Service agent who guarded President John F. Kennedy -- and commuted the sentences of 75 others, the White House announced.

The administration released the list of all 78 people affected by the decision as Biden announced the action as part of Second Chance Month, which the White House said signifies the importance of helping formerly incarcerated people reintegrate into society.

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"Today, I am pardoning three people who have demonstrated their commitment to rehabilitation and are striving every day to give back and contribute to their communities," Biden said in a statement. "I am also commuting the sentences of 75 people who are serving long sentences for non-violent drug offenses, many of whom have been serving on home confinement during the COVID-pandemic -- and many of whom would have received a lower sentence if they were charged with the same offense today, thanks to the bipartisan First Step Act."

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Among those pardoned Tuesday is former Secret Service agent Abraham Bolden, who was a member of Kennedy's security detail between 1961 and 1963.

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Bolden, 86, the first Black Secret Service agent to serve on a presidential detail, was tried in 1964 for attempting to sell an official Secret Service file. The trial ended in a hung jury.

He has long claimed that the charges were false due to a culture of racism within the Secret Service at the time.

Secret Service agent Abraham Bolden served on the protective detail of former President John Kennedy and ultimately spent time in prison. UPI File Photo

Though key witnesses during the second trial admitted being instructed by prosecutors to lie, Bolden was convicted after a second trial and efforts at a retrial failed. He spent six years in federal prison.

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"He has steadfastly maintained his innocence, arguing that he was targeted for prosecution in retaliation for exposing unprofessional and racist behavior within the U.S. Secret Service," the White House said in a statement.

"Bolden has received numerous honors and awards for his ongoing work to speak out against the racism he faced in the Secret Service in the 1960s, and his courage in challenging injustice. Mr. Bolden has also been recognized for his many contributions to his community following his release from prison."

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Tuesday afternoon, domestic policy adviser Susan Rice, White House counsel Dana Remus and adviser Cedric Richmond held a White House roundtable to elaborate on the president's first round of clemency.

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Also on Biden's pardons list is Betty Jo Bogans, a Texas woman who was convicted in 1998 for possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine.

Bogans was a single mother with no prior record who attempted to transport drugs for her boyfriend and his accomplice, neither of whom were arrested for the crime. She was sentenced to seven years and was released nearly two decades ago.

The other pardon will go to Georgia man Dexter Eugene Jackson, who was convicted on drug charges in 2007.

Jackson, 52, was not personally involved in trafficking marijuana but allowed others to use his property for drug deals. He pleaded guilty and ultimately transformed his business into a cellphone repair service and worked with high school kids to offer work experience. He also served time in prison.

The pardons and clemency orders are the first since Biden took office 15 months ago.

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"America is a nation of laws and second chances, redemption and rehabilitation," Biden said. "Elected officials on both sides of the aisle, faith leaders, civil rights advocates and law enforcement leaders agree that our criminal justice system can and should reflect these core values that enable safer and stronger communities."

Former President Barack Obama issued 212 pardons and commuted 1,715 sentences during his two terms in the White House and former President Donald Trump issued 143 pardons and 94 commutations.

The White House also unveiled a strategy Tuesday that expands job opportunities for those who formerly served prison time. It's part of a "whole-of-government" effort to boost jobs, bolster re-entry and strengthen communities and the economy, officials said.

"Leaders on both sides of the aisle recognize that second-chance opportunities offer people who have made mistakes and served their time a path to make meaningful contributions to their communities and reduce recidivism," the White House said.

This week in Washington

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Ambassador of Ukraine to the US Oksana Markarova, and other members of the House unveil a photo exhibit on the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the Capitol on Thursday. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

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