Rappers and politicians among notable names pardoned

Rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black were among the beneficiaries of Donald Trump’s wave of pardons in his last day in office, befitting a US president who made his name in New York’s tabloids and on reality TV.

While the 143 people granted clemency included former aide Steve Bannon and major Republican Party fundraiser Elliott Broidy, Mr Trump also used his wide ranging powers to clear people with little apparent ties to his administration.

Most American presidents have issued pardons late in their terms. Usually processed through the Office of the Pardon Attorney, they are intended to address cases in which the punishment outweighs the crime.

Despite speculation, Mr Trump did not pardon the subject of the Netflix series Tiger King, Joe Exotic, who is serving a 22-year prison sentence for plotting to kill a rival and animal cruelty.

Some of the more notable names on the president’s pardon and commutations list include the following ….

Steve Bannon
The 67-year-old strategist was a key adviser in Mr Trump’s 2016 presidential run. He was charged last year with swindling Trump supporters over an effort to raise private funds to build the president’s wall on the US-Mexico border. He has pleaded not guilty.

White House officials had advised Mr Trump against pardoning Mr Bannon, who left the his administration in late 2017. The two men have lately rekindled their relationship as the president sought support for his unproven claims of voter fraud, an official familiar with the situation said.

Steve Bannon had pleaded not guilty to swindling charges

Elliott Broidy
Mr Broidy, a major Republican Party fundraiser, pleaded guilty in October to acting as an unregistered foreign agent, admitting to accepting money to secretly lobby the Trump administration for Chinese and Malaysian interests.

Mr Broidy held finance posts in Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and on his inaugural committee.

Prosecutors alleged that the lobbyist received millions of dollars in payments from an unnamed foreign national to try to arrange the end of a US investigation into billions of dollars embezzled from 1MDB, a Malaysian government investment fund.

Kwame Kilpatrick
The former Detroit mayor was sentenced in 2013 following his conviction on two dozen charges including racketeering, bribery and extortion from a conspiracy, which prosecutors said had worsened the city’s financial crisis.

Kilpatrick, 50, once seen as a rising star in the Democratic Party, received one of the longest corruption sentences ever handed to a major US politician – 28 years in federal prison.

Mayor of Detroit from 2002 to 2008, he extorted bribes from contractors who wanted to get or keep city contracts, prosecutors said.

Kwame Kilpatrick was convicted of over two dozen charges, including bribery

Lil Wayne
Lil Wayne, 38, whose real name is Dwayne Michael Carter, pleaded guilty in federal court in December to illegally possessing a firearm and faced up to 10 years in prison. He was scheduled to be sentenced in March in Florida.

A year earlier, the Grammy winner was found with a loaded, gold-plated .45-caliber handgun in his baggage aboard a private plane that had landed at an executive airport near Miami. A previous felony conviction made it illegal for the rapper to have the weapon or ammunition.

On 29 October, Wayne, whose 2016 single ‘No Problem’ won the Best Rap Performance Grammy, tweeted a picture of himself with Donald Trump following what he called a “great meeting” with the president.

Kodak Black
Born Bill Kahan Kapri, rapper Kodak Black, 23, is in federal prison for making a false statement to buy a firearm, and released the album ‘Bill Israel’ from behind bars.

Mr Black pleaded guilty in August 2019, and three months later was sentenced to three years and 10 months in prison. He is seeking compassionate release.

In a since-deleted tweet in November, the rapper promised to spend $1 million on charity if the president released him, th ehip-hop magazine XXL reported.

Rapper Kodak Black released an album from behind bars

Sholam Weiss
Weiss was convicted of bilking $125 million from the National Heritage Life Insurance Co and its elderly policyholders. He fled the United States and was sentenced in absentia in 2000 to 845 years in prison, but he was eventually extradited from Austria.

Now aged 66, he is at a US penitentiary in Pennsylvania, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Mr Trump’s lawyers from his first impeachment, Alan Dershowitz and Jay Sekulow, sent letters to the White House in support of Weiss.

Anthony Levandowski
The former Google engineer pleaded guilty to stealing secret technology related to self-driving cars from the company before becoming the head of Uber Technologies Inc’s rival unit.

In August, a judge in San Francisco sentenced Levandowski to 18 months in prison but said he could enter custody once the Covid-19 pandemic has subsided.

The judge, William Alsup, who has been involved in Silicon Valley litigation for nearly five decades, described Levandowski’s conviction as the “biggest trade secret crime I have ever seen.”

Trump, who delivered his first pardon in August 2017, hisfirst year in office, had issued 70 in total before Wednesday,many of which have been given to people who are friendly withhis administration.
Trump’s pardons have also included some people tied tocelebrities, including Alice Marie Johnson, a woman convicted ondrug charges whose case was championed by reality televisionstar Kim Kardashian West.
Trump has gotten involved with criminal justice casesaffecting celebrities in other ways as well.
In 2019, Trump sought to intervene when A$AP Rocky wasdetained in Sweden after a brawl in downtown Stockholm. Therapper, whose legal name is Rakim Mayers, and two members of hisentourage were charged with assault causing bodily harm.
Mayers said he had acted in self-defense after his bodyguardwas attacked and was released from custody in August.