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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Christine Mai-Duc, Los Angeles Times (MCT)

Outgoing Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe says he will pardon his son, Kyle, in connection with a felony drug conviction from more than a decade ago. Also on Wednesday, he backpedaled on his intention to pardon another man with personal ties to him.

The Arkansas Parole Board recommended the pardon of Kyle Beebe, now 34, last month. He was convicted in 2003 for possession of marijuana with intent to deliver and sentenced to three years’ probation. According to parole board documents, police found two ounces of marijuana in Beebe’s home.

He completed his probation in 2006, and, his father said Wednesday, has learned from his mistake.

“He’s grown up a lot,” the elder Beebe told Arkansas TV station KATV. “Kids, when they’re young, do stupid stuff. He was no different.”

Beebe’s announcement came the same day he put another controversial pardon request on hold. That one was for convicted sex offender Michael E. Jackson, who has personal ties to the governor, and prosecutors and several state lawmakers had objected to his being pardoned.

Last week, Beebe’s office announced his intention to pardon 34-year-old Jackson, who was convicted in 2008 of Internet stalking of a child.

On Wednesday, Beebe’s office reversed course, saying it had received a copy of an affidavit in a child custody case that includes unspecified allegations against Jackson. The pardon would be granted, the governor said, only if those accusations “are found to be untrue.” Beebe, a Democrat, did not elaborate on the nature of those accusations.

In the 2008 case, Faulkner County prosecutor Cody Hiland says that Jackson was having a sexually explicit online conversation with what he thought was a 14-year-old girl on the Internet, and that he arranged to meet her at a Taco Bell. Jackson had actually been conversing with a police officer and was arrested shortly after. He was sentenced to two years in prison, of which he served less than four months, and to three years of probation. He completed his probation in January 2013 but must still register as a sex offender.

In a letter to the Arkansas Parole Board, Jackson called Gov. Beebe, his first football coach, a “father figure” who had “helped raise” him. “Mr. Beebe, you have known me since the day I was born,” Jackson wrote to the governor. “You know my character…. Our personal relationship shouldn’t sway you either way, but I do want to be a contributing member of society.”

Jackson said in the letter that he is “in no shape or form a repeat offender” and that the incident occurred at “a time in my life that I lost myself and had clouded judgment.” He said he wants to be a counselor and work with youth or coach sports.

Local prosecutors and sheriff’s officials have objected to Jackson’s pardon application. Faulkner County Sheriff Andy Shock called the fact that Jackson is eligible “ridiculous” in a statement to the parole board.

Still, in March, the Arkansas Parole Board recommended Jackson for a pardon.

Matt DeCample, the governor’s spokesman, acknowledged that Jackson and the Beebe family have known each other for “a very long time.”

“There’s always going to be a human factor involved” in pardon requests, DeCample said. “I think in this case, the governor’s personal knowledge of Mr. Jackson factored into his feeling that he would not be a risk to the public.”

Several lawmakers and a prominent conservative group have come out against Jackson’s planned pardon. In a statement Wednesday, the governor’s office said “new information sometimes arises,” which is “one of the reasons” the state requires a 30-day waiting period between the governor’s stated intent to grant a pardon and its finalization.

Meanwhile, the governor’s son is still on track to be pardoned.

In a letter to the parole board and the governor, Kyle Beebe said he’s changed: “I was young and dumb. At that time in my life, I felt like I was missing something and I tried to fill that emptiness by selling drugs. … Eleven years have passed since that time and I can assure you that I have learned from my mistake.”

He also noted that he’s now a husband and “proud father of two little girls.”

“I’m asking for a second chance at life. I am asking for a second chance to be the man that I know I can be,” he wrote.

The governor’s office said he has issued hundreds of pardons during his time in office, and that his son’s pardon does not constitute special treatment. The governor intends to pardon nearly a dozen people with similar drug offenses, according to a list posted last week.

“If you took his son’s name off the file, it would look like a lot of other people the governor has issued pardons to, as well … people who committed nonviolent crimes as a first offense when they were young,” said DeCample, the governor’s spokesman.

DeCample noted that as with many other pardon cases, Kyle Beebe has completed all of his sentencing requirements and has not been in trouble with the law since.

Public opinion polls continue to show a softening of attitudes toward marijuana, and drug sentencing in particular. Last year, a clear majority in a Gallup national poll — 58 percent of those surveyed — for the first time said the drug should be legalized.

In California, the recent passage of Proposition 47 will reduce sentences for drug possession, among other nonviolent crimes.

On the timing of Kyle Beebe’s pardon, the governor said he would have granted one to his son sooner if he had asked earlier. The governor is scheduled to leave office in January after two terms in office.

Although it’s unusual for outgoing office-holders to pardon close family members, politicians often leave the most controversial executive acts for the eleventh hour of their terms.

In the final hours of his presidency, Bill Clinton pardoned his half-brother, Roger, for a 1980s drug conviction.

In 2011, on his final night in office, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger reduced the prison sentence of the son of former California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, Esteban Nunez, who had pleaded guilty to participating in the killing of a college student. Over the objections of prosecutors, Schwarzenegger cut Nunez’s prison term from 16 years to seven years.

Photo: L. Allen Brewer via Flickr

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany was forced to defend President Donald Trump's recent attacks on MSNBC host Joe Scarborough on Tuesday, an unenviable task she nevertheless intentionally signed up for. She desperately tried to divert the attention back to Scarborough — without engaging in the president's conspiracy theorizing — but offered no credible defense of the president's conduct.

Trump has been spreading the debunked theory that Scarborough killed a staffer in 2001 while he was in Congress, even though it was determined she died of natural causes. The staffer's widower wrote a released a letter on Tuesday pleading with Twitter to take down the president's offensive tweets promoting the thoery. He said he was "angry," "frustrated," and "grieved" by the president's promotion of the harmful allegations. Trump is perverting his late wife's memory, he said, and he fears her niece and nephews will encounter these attacks.When asked about the letter, McEnany said she wasn't sure if the president had seen it. But she said their "hearts" are with the woman's family "at this time." It was a deeply ironic comment because the only particularly traumatizing thing about "this time" for the family is the president's attacks, which come nearly two decades after the woman's death.

McEnany refused to offer any explanation of Trump's comments and instead redirected reporters to a clip of Scarborough on Don Imus's radio show in 2003. In that show, Imus made a tasteless joke obliquely referring to the death, and Scarborough laughed at it briefly.

"Why is the president making these unfounded allegations?" asked ABC News' Jonathan Karl. "I mean, this is pretty nuts, isn't it? The president is accusing someone of possible murder. The family is pleading with the president to please stop unfounded conspiracy theories. Why is he doing it?""The president said this morning, this is not an original Trump thought. And it is not," she said, bringing up the Imus clip. But she made no mention of why the president is bringing up the issue 17 years later and with a much larger platform.

When pressed further on the president's conduct, she again diverted blame to Scarborough, saying his morning show unfairly criticizes the president. But again, she offered no substantive defense of Trump.

After McEnany had moved on, PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor brought it up again: "Why won't the president give this widower peace and stop tweeting about the conspiracy theory involving his wife?"

McEnany said she had already answered the question, which she hadn't, and said the onus is on Scarborough to explain the Imus clip."The widower is talking specifically about the president!" Alcindor shot back. But McEnany called on Chanel Rion, with the aggressively pro-Trump outlet OAN, who changed the subject to conspiracy theories about the origins of the Russia investigation.

"Are you not going to answer that?" Alcindor called out, still trying to get a substantive response to her question, but Rion spoke over her.

At the end of the briefing, another reporter asked whether Trump was looking for any actual law enforcement steps be taken in response to his conspiracy theory. But McEnany had nothing to add, and simply told people to listen to the Imus clip again. As she hurried out of the briefing room, a reporter asked if Trump would stop promoting the theory — but she left without answering.

Watch the exchange about Klausutis, which begins at 48:45.