Under fire from Mayor Giuliani and other critics, former President Bill Clinton defended his decision yesterday to pardon fugitive financier Marc Rich and other controversial figures.
Clinton said he would issue a memo in a few weeks explaining his reasoning behind the 140 pardons and 36 commutations that he granted. He said, however, they were in line with what other Presidents, such as Ronald Reagan, did in the closing days of their presidencies.
"You're not saying people didn't commit the offense, you're saying they've paid - they've paid in full - and they've been out enough after their sentence to show they're good citizens," Clinton said outside a deli in Chappaqua, Westchester County.
Rich fled to Switzerland before he could be prosecuted by then-U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani for fraud, racketeering and trading with the enemy. Clinton said he acted on the recommendation of former White House counsel Jack Quinn.
But Rich is the ex-husband of songwriter Denise Rich, a Manhattan socialite and major Democratic Party fund-raiser who is a close friend of both the former President and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
She was one of the largest donors of soft money for the First Lady's Senate campaign, contributing $120,000.
Marc Rich, who faced more than 300 years in prison, allegedly made vast profits through an illegal oil-pricing scheme during the 1973 oil crisis and was accused of cutting deals with Iran during the U.S. Embassy hostage crisis in Tehran.
In recent years, Rich gave away millions of dollars to charities around the world while maintaining his jet-setting lifestyle and homes in Switzerland, Spain and Israel.
Giuliani said he was "shocked" that Clinton was not merciful to felons who truly turned their lives around, such as disgraced Wall Street wizard Michael Milken, or Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.
"Michael Milken has paid his price," Giuliani said. "Unlike Marc Rich, he actually went to jail, actually paid his dues to society."
The junk bond king was one of the high-profile convictions Giuliani won as federal prosecutor. After serving 22 months of a 10-year sentence, Milken became a philanthropist who crusaded for a cure for prostate cancer and counseled the mayor on his own bout with the disease.
As for Pollard, Giuliani said he is "probably serving the longest sentence any spy has ever served" and deserved a pardon.
Giuliani also joined cop groups in blasting Clinton for pardoning Susan Rosenberg, who was linked to - but never charged with - a 1981 Brink's armored car robbery that left two police officers dead in Nyack, Rockland County.
Rosenberg enjoyed her first day of freedom yesterday after being sprung from the federal prison in Danbury, Conn., on Saturday. She could not be located for comment.
Among the others getting pardons were Clinton's half-brother, Roger, and Clinton's Whitewater business partner Susan McDougal. Giuliani's friend William Fugazy, a former limousine mogul, also received a pardon from Clinton.
"Again, unlike the Marc Rich case, Bill Fugazy pled guilty, was sentenced, paid his price," the mayor said, adding that Fugazy "may be one of the most charitable people in the City of New York."
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