Opinions and Legal Insights

Trump Pardons Bank Robber in Convention Video

President Donald Trump pardoned Jon Ponder, a former inmate who now runs a nonprofit to help others coming out of prison, in a video recorded Tuesday. The video played at the Republican National Convention (RNC) Tuesday night during a program that focused on Trump’s record on criminal justice reform, reports Reason. “I will continue to give all Americans, including former inmates, the best chance to build a new life and achieve their own American dream,” Trump said. Ponder is the founder of Hope for Prisoners, a Nevada nonprofit that offers support and training to former prisoners. Trump met with Ponder at the 2018 National Day of Prayer at the White House, and the president spoke at a Hope for Prisoners graduation ceremony in February.

Trump’s pardon wipes away a federal bank robbery conviction from Ponder’s record. The pardon was the latest in a string of high-profile commutations and pardons by Trump. Alice Johnson, a former inmate who was serving life in prison before Trump commuted her sentence in 2018, is also expected to speak at the Republican convention. While criminal justice advocates have applauded pardons and commutations issued in deserving cases, there have been criticisms that the Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney,which handles clemency applications, has been sidelined. The Washington Post reported that vast majority of the pardons and commutations under Trump have gone to cases that caught his attention on TV or were brought to him personally by advocates or celebrities.