Jewish Press Editorial: The Jonathan Pollard Decision

November 21, 2003 - By Editorial Board

Jonathan Pollard's new legal setback was not really surprising. The federal judge who last week denied his request for a reopening of his case was essentially required to follow prior appellate rulings unless the Pollard legal team came up with substantial, new legal arguments or evidence. And that apparently did not happen. At the core of Mr. Pollard's problem seems to be the legal conclusion that his original attorneys neglected to timely file a notice of appeal challenging the sentence he received. Had that been done, he could have had his day in court on his basic legal position that the government reneged on a plea bargain.

We have often commented on the deplorable indifference of many in the Jewish community with leverage in Washington to Pollard's plight. Indeed, there are any number of people who could have successfully importuned President Clinton and who could now intervene with President Bush with respect to possible clemency. Perhaps most egregious has been the outright anti-Pollard hostility of Senator Joseph Lieberman who seems determined to prove his Yankee pedigree by urging no relief for Pollard. In any event, we do not delude ourselves as to the prospects for the clemency route at this time.

However, the judicial ruling that Pollard is not entitled to a reopening of his case as a matter of law suggests another approach. That is, the fact that the courts have held that Pollard missed the legal boat in that he failed a key deadline, does not mean that the government cannot waive that failure. Nothing precludes the U.S. Justice Department from declining to raise the issue of the missed deadline in any response to a renewed application for a reopening. Pollard could get his day in court and the government could argue against any reduction in sentence.

We recognize that this is not the way things are usually done. But few would deny that there is a palpable sense that something is going on beneath the surface in the way Pollard has been treated. This sense has been heightened by reports that Pollard was placed in solitary confinement just before his recent court appearance as punishment for refusing to abandon his legal efforts. Apparently, the federal Bureau of Prisons has apologized for the action which it attributes to intervention from intelligence agencies.

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