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August 22, 2005

Box 35: Piracy on the High Seas

..aka...Box 35:Pardons

I continue my Judge John Roberts Adopt a Box O'Docs assignment.

Again, nothing in this box to hurt Roberts. There's barely anything here written by Roberts himself - and what is there shows him to be cordial, helpful and adherent to protocol.

So, why write so much about this box? I was sucked in by all the talk of the "High Seas" ...

First subject in question of the Pardon: Ramiro De La Fe (who should really be known as Ramiro De La Fe et. al because there is a large group of defendants involved in the indictment, but apparently the pardon is only for De La Fe).

His warrant for arrest, dated July 26, 1967, is from Miami, Florida and requires Mr. De La Fe to "answer to an indictment charging him in conspiracy to commit piracy on the high seas; assault with a dangerous weapon; destruction of navigation appliances; unlawful boarding of a vessel on the high seas; in violation of Title 18, United States Code...."

Okay, first - piracy??
Second, "High Seas"? Is this some sort of technical nautical term?
Third, "Navigation appliances?" Appliances? So, something more than like a compass I guess?
Fourth, "High Seas"
And...fifth ...Piracy? Seriously?
We really need to get another name for that offense.

The indictment describes the conspirators plan to "commandeer a vessel" and take it to Cuba. Yes. Cuba. In 1967. Which makes it seem like a bigger offense. They planned to dismantle the radio (aka navigational appliance). In fact, they did indeed take the vessel using "dangerous weapons, that is, guns, with intent to do bodily harm" (p.15).
Finally, on that same page, "high seas" are defined here to mean "The Atlantic Ocean."

The Indictment doesn't indicate that De La Fe et. al. made it to Cuba, but they did get the vessel, using guns, take it to Florida and then take it away to the ocean again, at which points, one assumes, they were caught.

Now, that was 1967. All letters and memos included in this box are dated throughout 1983/1984.

Why 1983? Well, as a memo from David Stephenson, Acting Pardon Attorney to Fred Fielding, Counsel to the President explains -

On May 5, 1983 President Reagan approved a revision of the rules governing petitions for pardon and other forms of Executive clemency, the first revision since 1962.

So, new rules, that's why.

The memo explains the benefits of the new rules and then attaches the rules themselves, an obvious official description from the DOJ.

Anyway, most of the memos about this case written by Roberts himself that would have been in this box were restricted for reason "B6: Release would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy."

Next case: fast forward to Nov.15, 1984 - A Roberts Letter on White House Stationary to "Mr. Goldsmith." (p.20)
Roberts says Goldsmith's letter was referred to him by Chief of Staff, James Baker. Apparently, Goldsmith was mad because he helped the US Attorney's Office and wasn't set free from custody afterward. He also said he had a pending pardon request. Roberts asks that Goldsmith understand the protocol matters here, saying that "it would be inappropriate for the White House to interfere in any way with the decision of the Parole Commission, or to interfere with the processing of your application before the Acting Pardon Attorney."

I think it was quite kind of Roberts to let Goldsmith know what was going on, not only that, but Roberts goes on to say that he referred Goldsmith's letter to the DOJ.

Next Memo from Roberts to Roger Clegg - Assoc. Deputy Attorney General. (p.21)
Roberts forwarded letters from an inmate as well as his own reply to Clegg.
However, those other documents are not in the box. Just the memo.

Then there's a White House tracking sheet re: Goldsmith and then another restriction form with reason B6 cited again.

Finally, a letter dated 10/1/84 on Congress of the United States letterhead to the Parole Commission on behalf of Goldsmith from Peter W. Rodino. (p. 24-25)

Rodino (D-NJ) admits to not knowing Goldsmith personally, but here again is the mention of Goldsmith's cooperation, specifically with the DEA. For this, he should be freed apparently. Rodino's logic "One must conclude that Mr. Goldsmith's experience was at least equivalent to and far more severe than any incarceration could have been."


Personally, I think Congress should have followed Roberts' lead and stayed out of it. Roberts was correct to cite such protocol in matters of pardons. They are sensitive subjects and are best handled in the most careful way, without concern for congressional politics. And what was Goldsmith doing writing to a New Jersey Congressman? Did he send letters to all of Congress? Talk about a fishing expedition.

Last two papers in the box are restriction documents on parole hearings and testimonies citing both B6 and "B7: Release would disclose information compiled for law enforcement purposes" and also "C: Closed in accordance with restrictions contained in donor's deed of gift."

So as I said, nothing here to hurt Roberts. But could we hear about the "High Seas" one more time, please?? :)

Posted by Abigail at August 22, 2005 07:05 PM

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