Sentence in Israel Spy Case Is Too Long, Giuliani Says

"...I have seen the documents -- his sentence is way beyond the sentence served by other people that have been convicted of the same offense"

August 15, 1999 - David M. Herszenhorn - The New York Times

NEW YORK -- Touching on cases of sedition and espionage that could be of concern to Puerto Rican and Jewish voters in next year's race for the U.S. Senate, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said Saturday that he did not have enough information to form an opinion on President Clinton's decision to commute the sentences of 16 members of a Puerto Rican nationalist group that carried out bombings in the 1970s and '80s.

But Giuliani said that the life sentence now being served by Jonathan J. Pollard, the American who was arrested in 1985 for spying for Israel, is too long compared with sentences in similar cases. The mayor's remarks seemed to suggest that he believes that Pollard ought to be granted clemency, a view shared by Israelis and many Jewish groups but one that has been adamantly opposed by top American military and security officials.

With each passing day, Giuliani seems to get more questions at his daily news conferences about the actions of the Clinton administration and whether he believes they are in any way related to Hillary Rodham Clinton's all-but-declared candidacy as a Democrat for Senate in New York. Giuliani, a Republican, is also considering a run for the Senate.

At City Hall on Saturday, the mayor was asked about Clinton's decision on Wednesday to commute the sentences of 16 members of the Armed Forces of National Liberation, or FALN, a group that was dedicated to the independence of Puerto Rico and carried out at least 130 bombings of political and military targets in the United States between 1974 and 1983.

The question focused on whether the Clinton's clemency offer might boost his wife's standing among the large number of Puerto Rican voters in New York.

The president had long been under pressure from minority politicians and human rights activists to free the FALN members, and the White House said the commutations had been in the works long before Mrs. Clinton expressed interest in running for Senate.

Giuliani, who was the third-ranking official in the Justice Department under President Ronald Reagan, said that in that post he had handled thousands of pardon requests and that he would want to read an internal Justice Department report about the individual convicts and about the sentences in similar cases before he could offer an opinion about whether the president's action was justified.

Most of the 16 FALN members being offered clemency, in exchange for declarations renouncing violence, were convicted of federal crimes of seditious conspiracy, possession of an unregistered gun or interstate transportation of a stolen vehicle. Some were sentenced to more than 50 years in jail, and most have already served more than 19 years.

"What I'd like to see is the pardon attorney's report," Giuliani said. "This is an area that I have a great deal of knowledge of because this is what I used to do in the Justice Department. The pardon attorney prepares reports that try to look at factors like remorse, rehabilitation and also comparative sentences."

Asked whether he thought Mrs. Clinton's candidacy might have been a factor, the mayor said: "Looking at the pardon attorney's report would tell you something like that. I mean it would give you a sense of is this usual. Does it fit within the way in which presidents have routinely exercised the pardon power or is it somewhat unusual? I am acutely aware of the fact that presidents pardon a lot of people."

When asked about Pollard's case, Giuliani said he knew the facts well.

"I think that given comparative sentences, his sentence -- this I happen to know because I have seen the documents -- his sentence is way beyond the sentence served by other people that have been convicted of the same offense," Giuliani said.

Israel and numerous Jewish-American groups have pressed for the release of Pollard, who had been a U.S. Navy intelligence analyst and pleaded guilty to spying for Israel. Clinton twice denied Pollard clemency but agreed to reconsider the case after it became an issue at the Middle East peace talks last year. The new Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak, has also said he would like to see Pollard released.

  • Return to Senate Race page