Bush pardons 14 and commutes 2 prison sentences

WASHINGTON (AP) - President George W. Bush has granted pardons to 14 individuals and commuted the prison sentences of two others, The Associated Press learned Monday. The new round of White House pardons are Bush's first since March and come less than two months before he will end his presidency. The crimes committed by those on the list include drug offenses, income tax evasion, bank embezzlement and violation of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

Bush has been stingy during his time in office about handing out such reprieves.

Including these actions, he has granted a total of 171 and eight commutations. That's less than half as many as Presidents Clinton or Reagan issued during their time in office. Both were two-term presidents.

On the latest pardon list were:

_Leslie Owen Collier of Charleston, Mo.

_Milton Kirk Cordes of Rapid City, S.D.

_Richard Micheal Culpepper of Mahomet, Ill.

_Brenda Jean Dolenz-Helmer of Fort Worth, Texas.

_Andrew Foster Harley of Falls Church, Va.

_Obie Gene Helton of Rossville, Ga.

_Carey C. Hice Sr. of Travelers Rest, S.C.

_Geneva Yvonne Hogg of Jacksonville, Fla.

_William Hoyle McCright Jr. of Midland, Texas.

_Paul Julian McCurdy of Sulphur, Okla.

_Robert Earl Mohon Jr. of Grant, Ala.

_Ronald Alan Mohrhoff of Los Angeles.

_Daniel Figh Pue III of Conroe, Texas.

_Orion Lynn Vick of White Hall, Ark.

Bush also commuted the prison sentences of John Edward Forte of North Brunswick, N.J., and James Russell Harris of Detroit.

Under the Constitution, the president's power to issue pardons is absolute and cannot be overruled.

Some high-profile individuals, such as Michael Milken, are seeking a pardon on securities fraud charges. Two politicians convicted of public corruption-former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif., and four-term Democratic Louisiana Gov. Edwin W. Edwards-are asking Bush to shorten their prison terms.

One hot topic of discussion related to pardons is whether Bush might decide to issue pre-emptive pardons before he leaves office to government employees who authorized or engaged in harsh interrogations of suspected terrorists in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Some constitutional scholars and human rights groups want the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama to investigate possible war crimes.

If Bush were to pardon anyone involved, it would provide protection against criminal charges, particularly for people who were following orders or trying to protect the nation with their actions. But it would also be highly controversial.

At the same time, Obama advisers say there is little-if any-chance that his administration would bring criminal charges.