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October 2004 - Playboy Magazine (US)

Pardon Me, Mr. President

By Amy Ralston, The Can-Do Foundation

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

In May President Bush did something amazing: he commuted the sentences of two prisoners convicted of federal drug charges. I've met many other deserving candidates for early release through my foundation, Can-Do, which I created after I left prison in July 2000. President Clinton granted me clemency after I had served nearly 10 years of a 24-year sentence for collecting bail money for my then-husband, who'd been arrested in Germany on charges of manufacturing Ecstasy.

If the president is interested, I have 17 cases he should know about, described at Here are two:

Lisa Hanna, an Army veteran, was attending law school in 1992 when her only child, Steven, nine, died of a seizure related to his cerebral palsy. Heartbroken, Lisa began drinking and using methamphetamine. She also was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

She worked to get her life together, passing the bar and getting married. But the marriage turned sour -- she says her husband became a meth dealer. By her account, she moved to another city to hide from him after he broke her nose.

When police later busted him for dealing, he fingered Hanna and others to shorten his time behind bars. He received seven years. Lisa is in the fifth year of a I 9-year sentence.

Maria Moncada, who lived in Venezuela, planned to visit her half sister in Florida. According to Maria, an acquaintance who traveled with her asked if he could put a pair of shoes in her bag because they didn't fit in his. Customs officials found heroin in the shoes.

At her trial the dealer, who could have easily testified against her for leniency, swore he had not told Moncada about the drugs. The jury hung.

At a second trial the prosecutor called a witness who Moncada says she had never met -- a prisoner who asserted that Maria was part of the ring. She received 12 years.

Amy Ralston, Malibu, California

Playboy's response: We asked the Justice Department why the president, who each year receive between 100 and 200 clemency requests, chose to release Geraldine Gordon, 67, and Bobby Mac Berry, 63.

A spokesman had no specifics, but both are in poor health. Gordon, who has had two strokes, served 15 years for selling PCP; the commutation allowed her to leave prison eight months before her scheduled release. Berry had served seven years of a nine-year term for growing marijuana. He suffers from the effects of polio and a prison beating.

These are not courageous political choices -- Hanna and Morcada would be.

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