In his frenetic last day in office, Bill Clinton issued 177 pardons and commutations. More than 30 of these didn’t go through the rigorous screening process that typically takes 18 to 24 months and is designed to weed out people who continued to break the law. And more than six weeks after Clinton departed the White House, Justice Department officials are still at a loss as to who many of these people are or how they received presidential pardons and commutations.
Justice officials recently informed several reporters that they were “highly suspicious” about the pardon of James Timothy Maness. All they knew about Maness was that he received a three-year suspended sentence in 1985 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee (Memphis) for conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance
Where does Maness reside now? They had no idea. What controlled substance did he conspire to distribute? They threw up their hands. Who sponsored his parole and how had it landed on Bill Clinton’s desk, much less been signed? They had no earthly idea.
With a medium amount of difficulty, WorldNetDaily tracked Maness down. He lives in West Memphis, Ark., just across the Mississippi River from Memphis. Repeated efforts to reach him for comment failed.
Maness, 27 years old at the time of his arrest, routinely goes by the name Tim. According to the two arresting officers, they had received a tip that Maness was trafficking in large quantities of prescription and illegal drugs. Through an intermediary, they arranged to meet Maness in the Hickory Hills section of Memphis where the two undercover officers, L.O. Phelps and Rick Jewel, were waiting.
A surveillance team made a video tape as Phelps and Jewel bought 12 pounds of alleged Quaaludes from Maness.
“They turned out to be ‘Mexican Quaaludes,’” Phelps told WND. In reality, they were diazepam (valium) pills made to resemble Quaaludes through the use of a pill press. “There were so many that we just weighed them instead of counting them,” said Phelps. “This was no street-level dealer. This guy was further up the food chain than that. We’re talking about $200,000 at 1985 prices.”
Typically, an arrested drug dealer will cooperate with the police in return for a reduced sentence. “Almost all will do at least a little talking,” said Jewell. “But Maness didn’t. He wouldn’t say a word. The only reason a drug dealer doesn’t talk is because he wants to stay in business.”
If Phelps and Jewell had what seemed such an airtight case, why did Maness receive what amounted to little more than a slap on the wrist? Especially when W. Hickman Ewing, Jr., was U.S. attorney in Memphis at the time. Ewing, who later spent six years as deputy Whitewater Independent Counsel pursuing Bill Clinton and his cronies, and who once even drafted an indictment on Hillary Rodham Clinton, had a reputation of being hard as nails on drug dealers. Moreover, the case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Julia S. Gibbons, who routinely meted out stiff sentences for drug offenders.
In essence, the case fell between the cracks. It was supposed to be handled by assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Disenza, a veteran prosecutor who normally tried cases of this sort. But Disenza was in 6th District court when the Maness trial began. Reba Robinson, an unseasoned prosecutor who never handled a drug case before or since, was thrown into the breach. Robinson faced Stephen Shankman, an experienced defense attorney who is now the federal public defender in Memphis. Robinson was out of her league.
Shankman told WND he had only a vague recollection of the Maness trial.
“How much time did my client get?” he asked.
A three-year suspended sentence.
“Boy! Did he get lucky!” Shankman said. Disenza agreed, saying that Judge Gibbons would normally have sentenced Maness to three to eight years in the penitentiary for the offense for which he had been convicted. Robinson left the U.S. Attorney’s office and no longer practices law.
Since Maness was an Arkansas native and had been convicted in 1985, the logical route to an expedited pardon would have been through Roger Clinton, Bill Clinton’s younger half-brother who himself received a pardon. Roger Clinton pleaded guilty in January 1985 to cocaine distribution charges and served one year of a two-year sentence in return for testifying against a number of other defendants.
Roger, a sometimes rock singer who was arrested in a beach community near Los Angeles for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs less than a month after he was pardoned, submitted six names for his half-brother to pardon, most of them conspirators in his drug dealings. The president allegedly turned all of Roger’s recommendations down.
“It sort of caused a rift,” Roger said, according to an Associated Press report. “My feelings were hurt. I was a disaster.”
Last week, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times reported that authorities were investigating whether two Arkansas businessmen, Dickey Morton and George Locke, using Roger Clinton’s name had swindled two men by promising pardons. One victim, Guy Lincecum, forked over $235,000 to the businessmen for a pardon he never received. Roger Clinton said that though he knew the two businessmen, he had never authorized either one to use his name.
Little Rock criminal defense attorney John Wesley Hall, who defended Roger in the cocaine distribution trial, told WND he was familiar with most of Roger’s criminal associates dating back to the mid-1980s and that Tim Maness was not one of them.
Arkansas sources told WND that Maness’ source of influence with Clinton was most likely U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, a 40-year-old freshman with a “squeaky-clean” reputation.
First elected to the House of Representatives in 1992, Lincoln in 1999 became the second woman in Arkansas history to win a U.S. Senate seat. (Hattie Caraway was the first in 1932.) Among her other committee assignments, Lincoln serves on the Select Committee on Ethics. She defended Bill Clinton during his impeachment travails. Tim Maness contributed $500 to Lincoln’s 1998 senatorial campaign — the only such campaign contribution that Maness is known to have made.
Repeated messages to Lincoln’s press secretary, Drew Goesl, containing questions regarding Lincoln’s alleged involvement in Maness’ pardon went unanswered. Finally, Goesel called back and said, “I have no information at all about the pardon. We don’t give pardons. The White House does that.”
Later, Goesl called back and said he had personally talked to the senator and that she denied any knowledge about the pardon.
“It was the president’s call. She (Lincoln) doesn’t personally know every one of her campaign contributors,” Goesl said.
That Maness received a presidential pardon is made all the more perplexing by the fact that area law officers suspect Maness is still active in the drug trade, a fact that would have raised red flags during a Justice Department vetting. But, like Marc Rich and others, Tim Maness was spared that hurdle.
“I’m upset now that this thing (the Maness pardon) wasn’t run through channels,” Ewing said. “If anybody had asked my opinion, I would have advised them not to grant this pardon.”
Former Shelby County Deputy L.O. Phelps was equally blunt. “I don’t think it’s right. We got the guy red-handed with $200,000 in dope; he skates with a suspended sentence on that, and now gets a presidential pardon. I don’t like it.”
The pardon of Tim Maness raises more questions about Clinton’s photo-finish run on Jan. 20. How did a mid-level narcotics trafficker, who refused to cooperate with authorities and is even now suspected of being up to his old tricks, rate a presidential pardon? And if Lincoln wasn’t his go-between, then who was? And why was the Justice Department bypassed?
Despite Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert’s assertion that “we’ve already found out pretty much all we’re going to find out,” there are, apparently, more avenues left to be explored, including the pardon of James Timothy Maness.
Together, Thompson and Hays have written several dozen investigative reports for WorldNetDaily.com, including the series, “TENNESSEE UNDERGROUND,” that ran between early September and Election Day, Nov. 7, 2000. Their groundbreaking work on Gore will soon be available as a WorldNetDaily book, titled “Why Gore lost Tennessee.”