Bush pardons man who helped Israel during wartime

December 23, 2008 2:23:26 PM PST
In a gesture of forgiveness for an American considered a hero in Israel, President George W. Bush on Tuesday granted a pardon posthumously to a man who broke the law to supply aircraft to Jews fighting in Israel's 1948 war of independence. Charles Winters was listed in a batch of 19 pardons and one commutation that Bush issued before leaving for Camp David to spend the holidays. No high-profile lawbreakers were on the list.

In the summer of 1948, Winters, a non-Jewish Miami businessman who exported produce, worked with others to transfer two converted B-17 "Flying Fortresses" to Israel's defense forces. He personally flew one of the aircraft from Miami to Czechoslovakia, where that plane and a third B-17 were retrofitted for use as bombers.

The three B-17s were the only heavy bombers in the Israeli Air Force. It is reported that counterattacks with the bombers helped turned the war in Israel's favor. In March 1961, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir issued a letter of commendation to Winters to recognize his contributions to Israel's survival as an independent state.

Over the years, Winters, a Protestant from Boston who settled in the Miami area, told his family little of his conviction in 1949 for violating the Neutrality Act for conspiring to export aircraft to a foreign country. He was fined $5,000 and sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Bush has granted a total of 190 pardons and nine commutations. That's fewer than half as many as Presidents Clinton or Ronald Reagan issued during their two terms.

In addition to Winters, Bush granted pardons to:
-William Alvis III, of Flushing, Ohio. Possession of an unregistered firearm and cocaine distribution.

-John Allen Aregood of Riviera, Texas. Conspiracy to harbor and transport illegal aliens.

-Eric Charles Blanke of Parker, Colo. Counterfeiting.

-Steve Doyle Cavender of The Villages, Fla. Conspiring to import, possess, distribute and dispense marijuana.

-Marie Elena Eppens of Lynden, Wash. Conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute marijuana.

-Lydia Lee Ferguson of Sun City, Ariz. Aiding and abetting possession of stolen mail.

-Eduviges Duvi Gonzalez-Matsumura of Clovis, Calif. Aiding and abetting embezzlement of bank funds.

-George Clarence Greene Jr. of Gray, Ga. Mail fraud.

-James Won Hee Kang of South Barrington, Ill. Trafficking in counterfeit goods.

-Alan Stephen Maiss of Reno, Nev. Concealing knowledge of a crime.

-Richard Harold Miller of Tallahassee, Fla. Conspiracy to defraud the United States.

-Delano Abraham Nixon of Neosho Rapids, Kan. Forging the endorsement on a U.S. Treasury check.

-John H. Overholt of Black Hawk, S.D. Concealment of information affecting Social Security benefits.

-Morris Keith Parker of Georgetown, S.C. Concealing knowledge of a crime.

-Robert Truman Reece of Redondo Beach, Calif. Unauthorized absence and missing the movement of a U.S. Navy ship.

-Donald Edward Roessler of Harrison, Ohio. Embezzlement of mail matter.

-Issac Robert Toussie of Brooklyn, N.Y. False statements to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and mail fraud.

-David Lane Woolsey of St. George, Utah. Aiding and abetting violation of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act.

Bush also commuted the prison sentence of Reed Raymond Prior of Des Moines, Iowa.

Prior was convicted of possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute. He was sentenced in 1996 in the Southern District of Iowa to life in prison with 10 years of supervised release. His prison sentence is now set to expire on Feb. 23, 2009, but the terms of the commutation leave intact and in effect the 10 years of supervised release with all its conditions.

Well-known names were not on Bush's holiday pardon list. There have been pushes to get Bush to pardon former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards, who was convicted in 2000 with four others in a scheme to rig riverboat casino licensing; disgraced track star Marion Jones, who lied about using steroids; Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, former U.S. Border Patrol agents who were convicted of shooting a drug smuggler in 2005 and trying to cover it up; and Michael Milken, junk bond king who was convicted of securities fraud.

In his most high-profile official act of forgiveness, Bush saved Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, from serving any prison time in the case of the 2003 leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity.

Libby was convicted of perjury and obstructing justice. Bush could still grant him a full pardon, although Libby has not applied for one.


Load Comments