If New Jersey Assembly majority leader Paul DiGaetano (R-Dist. 36) and Assembly member John V. Kelly (R-Dist. 36) have their way, their party will support clemency for Jonathan Jay Pollard.
This move would help the Republicans atone for Pat Buchanan's anti-Semitic remarks and gain support in the presidential election.
DiGaetano and Kelly sent a letter, dated Oct. 27, to Texas Gov. George W. Bush, calling on the presidential candidate to advocate clemency for Pollard.
Pollard is a former civilian intelligence analyst for the United States Navy who pleaded guilty to spying for Israel. He admitted to passing classified government documents to Israel and in March 1987 was sentenced to life in prison. (See the Facts Page.)
A constituent, Robert Rogoff of Passaic, brought the Pollard case to DiGaetano's attention. Rogoff has long been fighting for Pollard. Two years ago he helped to arrange a meeting between Pollard and U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-Dist. 8). Rogoff would like to see more Jews get in touch with their elected officials on the state and federal levels to lobby for Pollard.
"My goal is actually to free Jonathan Pollard from prison," Rogoff said. "If we get politicians from both parties to understand the situation and to know Pollard, he is more likely to be released." Rogoff said of DiGaetano that "he's dynamic" and hopefully he'll have some influence over someone like [Bush].' Rogoff said he is working to arrange a meeting between DiGaetano, Kelly and Pollard.
When he reviewed the facts, DiGaetano decided that although Pollard had been wrong, his sentence was "unduly harsh and inconsistent with other sentences," according to the Assembly member's director of communications, Jonathan Lowy.
In their letter, DiGaetano and Kelly wrote, "The sentence imposed upon Pollard is unduly harsh and inconsistent with the punishment given to other Americans convicted of even worse crimes. As loyal members of the Republican Party we are all too aware of statements made by former colleagues that have raised understandable concern within the Jewish community. Your policies have opened a real window of trust to the Jewish citizens of New Jersey. Your advocacy of a pardon for Jonathan Pollard would expand that window."
No letters were sent to other presidential candidates, Lowy said.
"Not one single American was harmed because of Jonathan Pollard," DiGaetano said, according to Lowy.
DiGaetano wrote another letter, dated Oct. 6, to President Bill Clinton, calling for Pollard's punishment to be commuted. In the letter he took Clinton to task for releasing several convicted Puerto Rican nationalist terrorists. "Mr. President, surely if you could see your way to pardoning terrorists who were responsible for the deaths of innocent Americans, you certainly can consider a pardon for someone whose actions never caused the death, or even the injury of a single American," DiGaetano wrote.
In September, Clinton granted 12 members of the Puerto Rican group called the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN) a clemency deal, releasing them in exchange for their anti-violence statements. The move was seen as political, aimed at winning Hispanic support for Hillary Clinton's New York Senate campaign.
Rogoff also cited the release of the FALN prisoners as an argument in favor of releasing Pollard. Unlike the FALN members, Pollard has expressed remorse, yet his sentence remains longer than "anyone has ever had" for spying for an ally, according to Rogoff.
"He never gave up codes, never gave up names of agents," Rogoff said. "If FALN terrorists can be released, who haven't expressed remorse, then Jonathan Pollard, who certainly never killed anybody, can be released." Meanwhile, Rogoff plans to continue pressuring Clinton and presidential candidates on Pollard's behalf.
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