Gov. Bob McDonnell restored the civil rights to more than 1,000 felons in 2012, including I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, and two former Richmond city leaders.
The report, which covers the governor’s actions from Jan. 17, 2012 to Jan. 16, 2013, also includes rights restoration for Gwendolyn C. Hedgepeth, a former city councilwoman, and Leonidas B. Young II, an ex-mayor.
McDonnell, who set a goal of giving speedier answers on restoration of rights petitions, also granted one simple pardon and three conditional pardons.
Libby was convicted in 2007 of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements and received a 2 ½ year prison sentence, but President George W. Bush commuted his sentence before leaving office.
McDonnell restored his rights on Nov. 1, according to the governor’s annual report to the General Assembly on pardons, commutations, reprieves and other forms of clemency.
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In Virginia, only the governor can restore a felon’s civil rights. McDonnell campaigned on implementing a speedier restoration-review process and, once in office, he set a goal of delivering an answer to a petitioner within 60 days. He has restored the rights for 4,616 felons to date, according to his office.
“The governor has established the quickest and fairest restoration of rights process in Virginia history,” said McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin. “He believes in second chances and redemption, and those basic beliefs drive this administration’s work on the issue.”
In January, McDonnell called for automatic restoration of civil rights for nonviolent felons during his annual State of the Commonwealth address but the state legislature defeated efforts to change the Virginia Constitution.
In February 1999 Young resigned from City Council and pleaded guilty to two counts of mail fraud and one count each of obstruction of justice and filing a false U.S. tax return.
Hedgepeth resigned from City Council in April 2004, the month she was convicted of four charges -- conspiracy to commit extortion, making false statements to federal officers and two counts of attempting to commit extortion.
Hedgepeth said she now helps other people seek to have their voting rights restored through a program at her church.
“This is a very privileged right to be able to vote, to be able to have some say-so,” she said. “I’m saddened that Virginia has not reached a point where that is done automatically, especially the nonviolent.”
McDonnell granted a simple and conditional pardon to a man who, on two occasions, took broccoli from a grocery store where he worked. The produce was part of a display and the man was unaware that taking the leftovers was a crime, according to the report. He was sentenced in 2004 for misdemeanor petit larceny and faced deportation.
McDonnell reduced his sentence so the offense wouldn’t be viewed as an “aggravated felony.”
The other conditional pardons were granted to Jonathan Montgomery, a Florida man who was in prison for sexual assaults his accuser now says did not happen, and a woman who was convicted in Fairfax of shoplifting in 1995.
She applied for U.S. citizenship in 1995 and was denied because her sentence was more than one year, according to the report. McDonnell reduced her sentence by one day so she can try again for citizenship.