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Pardon me

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When the U.S. Justice Department posted the names of criminals pardoned by Bill Clinton in his final hours as president, News Hits took a quick look to see if there were any locals on the list (www.usdoj.gov/opa/pardonchartlst.htm). Turns out there was one area person — Robert M. Williams of Flint in Genesee County — among the lucky.

As far as we could tell, most of the media missed the story. Except for the Flint Journal, which ran a nice piece reporting how the judge who sentenced Williams 20 years ago played an active role in winning his pardon.

According to the article by Marjory Raymer, Williams pleaded guilty in 1981 to one count of conspiracy. Seems he was involved in an international money-laundering scheme involving the sale of equipment from his plastic plumbing company, Genova Products Inc.

Five years ago, the judge who presided over Williams’ trial, sent a letter to the Justice Department, asking that it look into his case. The letter from U.S. District Judge John Feikens reportedly stated, in part: “What has impressed me about Mr. Williams is his diligence and strong desire to rectify the crime which he committed. The remorse that he evinces is real and the cooperation that he showed the probation department of this court was genuine.”

Feikens wasn’t the only one to lend a hand. The article points out that U.S. Rep. Dale Kildee (D-Flint) lobbied on Williams’ behalf. Kildee, who remembered Williams as a student from his days teaching a ninth-grade civics class in Flint, provided a series of phone calls and letters recommending a pardon.

Out of curiosity, News Hits paid a visit to one of its favorite Web sites, www.tray.com/fecinfo, which provides searchable databases of federal campaign finance information. Forgive us our cynicism, but all the attention being paid to Clinton’s pardon of billionaire fugitive Marc Rich and the six-figure political donations his ex-wife has been making, got us to wondering if Mr. Williams might have been using hard currency to show some appreciation to those working on his behalf. For the most part, Williams’ contributions have skewed distinctly conservative. Between 1996 and 2000, he sent a total of $30,000 to the Michigan Republican State Committee. He also sent $2,000 to Sen. Spence Abraham over the past few years. There is, however, one Democrat that Williams has supported with cold cash — Kildee. According to information posted on FECInfo, Williams has contributed $4,000 to his old civics teacher since 1996. His wife kicked in another $1,000 last year.

And that, as Paul Harvey likes to say, is the rest of the story.

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette, the Metro Times news editor. Call 313-202-8004 or e-mail cguyette@metrotimes.com

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