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Obama's First Pardons Include $20-Fined Coin Mutilator

"The president was moved by the strength of the applicants' post-conviction efforts at atonement..."

WASHINGTON (The Blaze/AP) -- President Barack Obama has granted the first pardons of his presidency. The list of nine people, however, is unimpressive and includes mostly people who never even served jail time, including one man absolved for mutilating coins.

No one well-known was on the list, and some of the crimes dated back decades or had drawn little more than a slap on the wrist in the first place - such as a Pennsylvania man sentenced in 1963 to probation and a $20 fine for mutilating coins. The White House didn't explain the charge, but tampering with federal currency is a crime.

The White House declined to give details on the cases or comment on why these particular people were selected by a president who previously had only pardoned Thanksgiving turkeys. Presidential pardons often come in the holiday season toward year's-end, but they can sometimes be extremely controversial, such as when Bill Clinton pardoned fugitive financier Marc Rich at the end of his presidency.

"The president was moved by the strength of the applicants' post-conviction efforts at atonement, as well as their superior citizenship and individual achievements in the years since their convictions," said White House spokesman Reid Cherlin. The White House announced the pardons Friday as Obama was in the air on the way home from a surprise visit to Afghanistan.

The people pardoned were:

-James Bernard Banks, of Liberty, Utah, sentenced to two years of probation in 1972 for illegal possession of government property.

-Russell James Dixon, of Clayton, Ga., sentenced to two years of probation in 1960 for a liquor law violation.

-Laurens Dorsey, of Syracuse, N.Y., sentenced in 1998 to five years of probation and $71,000 in restitution for conspiracy to defraud by making false statements to the Food and Drug Administration.

-Ronald Lee Foster, of Beaver Falls, Pa., sentenced in 1963 to a year of probation and a $20 fine for mutilating coins.

-Timothy James Gallagher, of Navasota, Texas, sentenced in 1982 to three years of probation for cocaine possession and conspiracy to distribute.

-Roxane Kay Hettinger, Powder Springs, Ga., sentenced in 1986 to 30 days in jail and three years of probation for conspiracy to distribute cocaine.

-Edgar Leopold Kranz Jr., of Minot, N.D., who received 24 months of confinement and a pay reduction for cocaine use, adultery and bouncing checks.

-Floretta Leavy, of Rockford, Ill., sentenced in 1984 to 366 days in prison and three years of parole for drug offenses.

-Scoey Lathaniel Morris, of Crosby, Texas, sentenced in 1991 to three years of probation and $1,200 restitution for counterfeiting offenses.

The minor pardons quickly sparked outrage. "Six out of the nine pardons are for people who didn't even go to prison," P.S. Ruckman Jr., editor of the Pardon Power blog and a political science professor in Illinois, told the Huffington Post.

"Mr. Obama has apparently been sitting on these since last February when the Justice Department recommended them as easy calls," George Lardner Jr., a former Washington Post reporter who is writing a book about presidential pardons, also told HuffPo. "What took him so long? Was he afraid of making a mistake? ... The President's inattention to the pardon power, if not his disdain for it, has been painfully demonstrated by these minor league (or should I say Bush-league) grants."

Politico reported the pardons as "comically trivial." Even an advocate of more lenient sentences admitted the pardons were odd.

“These were easy cases," Molly Gill of Families Against Mandatory Minimums told Politico, "These were not tough calls."


Associated Press writer Darlene Superville contributed to this report.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include reactions.

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