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The current head of DHS, Mayorkas, petitioned for the release of a “major player” in (illegal) drug trafficking from jail (clemency). Mayorkas is currently facilitating illegal drug trafficking with the DHS quasi open border policy. This includes the distraction to border patrol created by “families” crossing the border. Yet, Mayorkas is apparently trying to criminalize free speech in the United States. The current head of HHS, Becerra, also appealed on behalf of the same drug trafficker. Lockdowns can also facilitate illegal activities, including illegal drug trafficking. The chaotic withdrawal by Biden of US troops from Afghanistan, which handed the country to the Taliban was an aid to illicit drug production and trafficking, as well. The UN reported on June 1, 2021 that: “The primary sources of Taliban financing remain criminal activities, including drug trafficking and opium poppy production, extortion, kidnapping for ransom, mineral exploitation and revenues from tax collection in areas under Taliban control or influence.https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2021/08/15/taliban-finances-and-connections-to-criminal-activity-drug-production-trafficking-mining/

Mayorkas had spoken twice with Todd Jones, the U.S. Attorney responsible for the Vignali case. Jones told Mayorkas that Vignali was a “major player” in drug trafficking… Mayorkas still called the White House in support of the Vignali commutation… There are a number of allegations that both Horacio and Carlos Vignali were involved in illegal drug trafficking…. Mayorkas, the top federal prosecutor in Los Angeles, was asked by Horacio Vignali to call the White House in support of his son’s clemency petition.”

The current head of HHS, Xavier Becerra, also petitioned on Vignali’s behalf:
A key element of the campaign by Carlos Vignali and his father Horacio, was a series of letters on Carlos’ behalf from prominent Los Angeles politicians. A number of these letters contained misleading statements calculated to create the impression that Carlos Vignali was innocent. The officials who submitted letters included Representative Xavier Becerra…” (US House Report, May 14, 2002)

Was Mayorkas’ family connected to Meyer Lansky? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meyer_Lansky#Cuba https://themobmuseum.org/blog/rise-castro-fall-havana-mob/ The Mayorkas didn’t leave Cuba until Castro took over, whereas US Senator Ted Cruz’ father was imprisoned and tortured under Batista, and his aunt imprisoned and tortured under Castro.

People had better start asking who Mayorkas really is and who he works for!

Pete Williams of NBC News’ interpretation of the new terror alert issued by DHS: “DHS says that this new terrorism advisory is not based on any actual threats or plots but it says that there is a rise in anti-government rhetoric. Some is opposition to Covid public health rules like mask and vaccine measures…. some on claims of election fraud or a belief that Donald Trump can be reinstated…” (at ca 13 minutes: https://youtu.be/sBMCXkjaMxQ )

You have the right to freedom of speech, but beware that they may try to entrap you into saying something stupid. While DHS appears to accuse those who question Covid mandates and election integrity of being foreign actors, whoever wrote this incoherent gobbledygook is apparently the foreign actor. DHS Sec. Mayorkas sure as hell is: “Summary of Terrorism Threat to the U.S. Homeland”, August 13, 2021: https://archive.is/KoLW5

NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co: Boycott Protected Under First Amendment Of The US Constitution

U.S. Attorney Alejandro Mayorkas provided critical support for the Vignali commutation that was inappropriate, given his position. U.S. Attorney Alejandro Mayorkas called the White House in support of the Vignali commutation. Mayorkas, the top federal prosecutor in Los Angeles, was asked by Horacio Vignali to call the White House in support of his son’s clemency petition. Mayorkas then called the White House about the Vignali commutation. While Mayorkas does not recall the details of his conversation, he now concedes that his call conveyed support for the Vignali commutation. Mayorkas supported the Vignali commutation despite his ignorance of the facts of the case and his knowledge that the prosecutors responsible for the Vignali case opposed clemency. Before he called the White House, Mayorkas had spoken twice with Todd Jones, the U.S. Attorney responsible for the Vignali case. Jones told Mayorkas that Vignali was a “major player” in drug trafficking, that he was “bad news” and that Mayorkas should not “go there”when it came to Vignali. Despite these warnings from a prosecutor who was intimately familiar with the Vignali case, Mayorkas still called the White House in support of the Vignali commutation. Mayorkas’ support for the Vignali commutation was inappropriate. Mayorkas knew little about the Vignali case.

What he did know indicated that Carlos Vignali was an unrepentant, large-scale criminal. These facts alone make his support for the commutation, as a senior federal prosecutor, totally inappropriate.

There are a number of allegations that both Horacio and Carlos Vignali were involved in illegal drug trafficking.

There are allegations that, in addition to his son, Horacio Vignali was involved in illegal drug trafficking, and that Carlos Vignali was involved in drug trafficking far beyond the conduct that led to his conviction in Minnesota. DEA reports documenting these allegations include the following
statements
:

“[Horacio Vignali] negotiated with ATF agents to sell a machine gun and stated to them that he had also smuggled heroin into the United States utilizing automobiles.”

“[Redacted] has also purchased cocaine from Carlos Vignali Jr. of Los Angeles . . . Vignali’s father Carlos Vignali aka `pops’ owns a body shop, at 1260 Figueroa and is the source of supply for his son.”

“Carlos Horatio Vignali’s role in [George Torres’ drug dealing] organization is relatively unknown at this time. It is believed that Vignali functions as a financial partner in the organization.”

These DEA reports are corroborated by law enforcement personnel who indicate that they had received information indicating that both Horacio and Carlos Vignali were involved in large-scale drug trafficking. These charges have never been formally made in court or substantiated by physical evidence. However, the mere existence of such allegations should have precluded senior law enforcement and political officials from supporting a commutation for Carlos Vignali on the strength of his father’s reputation.

Nonetheless, it appears that no one checked with the DEA prior to granting the commutation”. (US House Report 107-454, JUSTICE UNDONE: CLEMENCY DECISIONS IN THE CLINTON WHITE HOUSE, May 14, 2002.–
Mr. Burton-the Committee on Government Reform, SECOND REPORT

More from the Report:
House Report 107-454]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]

Union Calendar No. 269
107th Congress Report
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
2d Session 107-454

======================================================================

JUSTICE UNDONE: CLEMENCY DECISIONS IN THE CLINTON WHITE HOUSE

_______

May 14, 2002.–Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the
State of the Union and ordered to be printed

_______

Mr. Burton, from the Committee on Government Reform submitted the
following

SECOND REPORT

On March 14, 2002, the Committee on Government Reform
approved and adopted a report entitled “Justice Undone:
Clemency Decisions in the Clinton White House.” The chairman
was directed to transmit a copy to the Speaker of the House.

CHAPTER THREE

HUGH RODHAM’S ROLE IN LOBBYING FOR GRANTS OF EXECUTIVE CLEMENCY

FINDINGS OF THE COMMITTEE

HUGH RODHAM’S INVOLVEMENT IN THE VIGNALI COMMUTATION

Vignali’s clemency petition was false and misleading.

Carlos Vignali lied in his clemency petition. First, he continued to maintain his innocence, despite overwhelming evidence of his involvement in selling a substantial amount of cocaine across state lines and a specific finding by the sentencing judge that he lied at trial about his involvement in a large drug distribution network. Second, Vignali claimed that
he was a first-time offender, despite the fact that he had a prior criminal record. By not accepting responsibility for his crime and lying about his background, he should not have been eligible for executive clemency.

Vignali’s supporters provided letters of support that were false and misleading.

A key element of the campaign by Carlos Vignali and
his father Horacio, was a series of letters on Carlos’ behalf from prominent Los Angeles politicians. A number of these letters contained misleading statements calculated to create the impression that Carlos Vignali was innocent. The officials who submitted letters included Representative Xavier Becerra, Representative Esteban Torres, State Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg, State Assembly Member Antonio Villaraigosa, State
Senator Richard Polanco, Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina, Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Hernandez, and Cardinal Roger Mahony, Archbishop of Los Angeles.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca provided critical support for the Vignali commutation that was inappropriate, given his position.

Sheriff Baca had a close relationship with Horacio
Vignali that was based on Vignali’s political and financial support for Baca. Sheriff Baca has known Horacio Vignali since 1991, and Vignali has been a key political supporter of Baca, giving him at least $11,000 in contributions and raising
between $60,000-$70,000 more.

Sheriff Baca spoke with the White House in support
of the Vignali commutation. In January 2001, Baca received a telephone call from Hugh Rodham in which Rodham told Baca that he would get a call from the White House about Horacio Vignali. Shortly thereafter, Baca received a call from White House staff and spoke in support of Horacio Vignali. Based on Baca’s
statements in this telephone call, White House staff clearly and justifiably concluded that Baca supported the commutation of Carlos Vignali’s sentence.

Sheriff Baca continues to claim, without any basis,
that he did not support the Vignali commutation. Rather than express regret for his role in the Vignali commutation, Sheriff Baca maintains that he opposed the Vignali commutation and did nothing that could have been interpreted as support for the commutation. However, Sheriff Baca’s supposed opposition to the
Vignali commutation does not square with the fact that: (1) he drafted a letter that he believed Horacio Vignali would use in the clemency effort and (2) when he was asked squarely by the White House if the President should commute Vignali’s prison sentence, he stated that it was “the President’s decision to make,” rather than express his opposition. These facts, and
others outlined in this report, indicate that Sheriff Baca wanted to support the Vignali commutation, but was afraid of creating a paper record that would clearly indicate his support.

Sheriff Baca’s efforts on behalf of the Vignalis are
even more inappropriate given that there were extensive
allegations that Horacio Vignali, Carlos’ father, was also involved in illegal drug trafficking. It is inappropriate enough for a senior law enforcement official like Baca to support a grant of clemency for an unrepentant, large-scale drug dealer like Carlos Vignali. However, when coupled with credible allegations indicating that Horacio Vignali was a drug dealer, and in fact was the source of cocaine supply for his
son, Baca’s support of Horacio and Carlos Vignali is even more inappropriate.

U.S. Attorney Alejandro Mayorkas provided critical support for the Vignali commutation that was inappropriate, given his position.

U.S. Attorney Alejandro Mayorkas called the White
House in support of the Vignali commutation. Mayorkas, the top federal prosecutor in Los Angeles, was asked by Horacio Vignali to call the White House in support of his son’s clemency petition. Mayorkas then called the White House about the Vignali commutation. While Mayorkas does not recall the details of his conversation, he now concedes that his call conveyed support for the Vignali commutation.

Mayorkas supported the Vignali commutation despite
his ignorance of the facts of the case and his knowledge that the prosecutors responsible for the Vignali case opposed clemency. Before he called the White House, Mayorkas had spoken twice with Todd Jones, the U.S. Attorney responsible for the Vignali case. Jones told Mayorkas that Vignali was a “major player” in drug trafficking, that he was “bad news” and that
Mayorkas should not “go there” when it came to Vignali. Despite these warnings from a prosecutor who was intimately familiar with the Vignali case, Mayorkas still called the White House in support of the Vignali commutation.

Mayorkas’ support for the Vignali commutation was
inappropriate. Mayorkas knew little about the Vignali case. What he did know indicated that Carlos Vignali was an unrepentant, large-scale criminal. These facts alone make his support for the commutation, as a senior federal prosecutor, totally inappropriate.

There are a number of allegations that both Horacio and Carlos Vignali were involved in illegal drug trafficking.

There are allegations that, in addition to his son,
Horacio Vignali was involved in illegal drug trafficking, and that Carlos Vignali was involved in drug trafficking far beyond the conduct that led to his conviction in Minnesota. DEA reports documenting these allegations include the following
statements:

“[Horacio Vignali] negotiated with ATF agents to sell
a machine gun and stated to them that he had also
smuggled heroin into the United States utilizing automobiles.”

“[Redacted] has also purchased cocaine from Carlos Vignali Jr. of Los Angeles . . . Vignali’s father Carlos Vignali aka `pops’ owns a body shop, at 1260 Figueroa and is the source of supply for his son.”

“Carlos Horatio Vignali’s role in [George Torres’ drug dealing] organization is relatively unknown at this time. It is believed that Vignali functions as a financial partner in the organization.”

These DEA reports are corroborated by law enforcement personnel who indicate that they had received information indicating that both Horacio and Carlos Vignali were involved in large-scale drug trafficking. These charges have never been formally made in court or substantiated by physical evidence. However, the mere existence of such allegations should have precluded senior law enforcement and political officials from supporting a commutation for Carlos Vignali on the strength of his father’s reputation.
Nonetheless, it appears that no one checked with the DEA prior to granting the commutation.

Hugh Rodham provided false and misleading information to the White House in support of the Vignali commutation.

Hugh Rodham was paid $204,200 for his work on the
Vignali commutation. It appears that, in return for this money, he worked part-time for two months gathering materials in support of Vignali’s case and making telephone calls to White House staff. It appears that Rodham’s payment in the Vignali matter was contingent upon his success, as he received the $200,000 payment on January 24, 2001, after President Clinton granted clemency to Vignali.

Rodham repeatedly provided false information during
his communications with the White House. First, and most
importantly, Rodham told Bruce Lindsey that the trial attorney who prosecuted Vignali supported the commutation. This was completely false. Second, Rodham told Lindsey that Vignali was a first-time offender when, in fact, he had two prior convictions and two other arrests. Rodham also told Lindsey
that Vignali “did not play a major role in the offense” when, in fact, Vignali was a major source of cocaine for the Minnesota drug-dealing ring at issue in his case.

Hugh Rodham told the White House that First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton was aware of his lobbying efforts and that the Vignali commutation was “very important” to her.

Hugh Rodham told White House staff that the Vignali
commutation was “very important to him and the First Lady as well as others.” This statement is confirmed by the independent recollection of the White House staffer who spoke to Rodham as well as the note that she took contemporaneously.

Rodham’s statement raises two possibilities: first, that the First Lady was aware of and approved of Hugh Rodham’s lobbying efforts; or, second, that Hugh Rodham was lying to White House staff regarding the First Lady’s knowledge of his efforts.

The White House sought the opinion of powerful Los Angeles political figures, but failed to consult with the prosecutors or judge who understood the Vignali case.

White House staff engaged in telephone conversations
with a number of outside individuals regarding the Vignali case–Hugh Rodham, Lee Baca, and Alejandro Mayorkas, none of whom knew very much about the Vignali case. It appears that key White House staff gave great weight to the input provided by Rodham, Baca, and Mayorkas, even though they knew little about
the case and had mixed motives.

White House staff failed to reach out to the
prosecutors who had convicted Vignali or the judge who
sentenced him. White House staff justified their failure to take this simple action by concluding that they knew that the prosecutors and judge would object, so there was no need to speak to them. However, if the White House had spoken to Todd Jones, Denise Reilly, Andrew Dunne, or Judge David Doty, they would have learned that Carlos Vignali: (1) was not a small-
time drug dealer; (2) was unrepentant about his criminal
activity; and (3) never cooperated with law enforcement by telling them who supplied him cocaine.

The White House ignored the strenuous objections to the Vignali commutation that were lodged by the Pardon Attorney.

The Pardon Attorney provided the White House with a
report that contained his recommendation against granting the Vignali commutation. This report contained a number of powerful arguments against the commutation, which were apparently ignored by the White House. The existence of the Pardon Attorney’s report means that the White House cannot claim that it was totally unaware that Vignali’s arguments were completely false. The White House knew that the Vignali clemency petition
had no merit, yet decided to grant the commutation anyway. President Clinton’s decision raises questions about why the Vignali commutation was granted.

Rodham has apparently misled the public about returning to the Vignalis those fees he received in connection with the clemency and ignored former President and Senator Clinton’s request that he do so.

On February 21, 2001, at the request of former
President Clinton and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Rodham promised to return to Horacio Vignali the legal fees he received in connection with the Vignali clemency. But, as of June 2001, Rodham had apparently returned only about $50,000 of the money that Horacio Vignali paid him. Rodham’s attorney has confirmed to Committee staff that Rodham has not returned any
additional amounts and has no plans to return the remaining $154,000….

INTRODUCTION

Unlike Roger Clinton, Hugh Rodham was highly successful in leveraging his relationship with the President and First Lady into lucrative work lobbying for grants of clemency. The Committee is aware of three cases in which Hugh Rodham lobbied the White House for grants of executive clemency: Carlos Vignali, Glenn Braswell, and Gene and Nora Lum. Rodham was successful in two of these cases and was paid over $430,000 for his work.

Simply put, Rodham inappropriately used his access to the White House to lobby for grants of clemency, which were not deserved and would not have been granted but for his intervention. Carlos Vignali was a supplier of cocaine to a major drug-dealing ring in Minnesota who never admitted his guilt or cooperated with law enforcement. Yet, because of Hugh Rodham’s efforts, he had his sentence cut from 15 to 5 years
Glenn Braswell was a highly successful con artist who had his earlier fraud conviction erased despite that he was under active investigation for tax fraud at the time of the pardon.

The fact that Vignali and Braswell received clemency from President Clinton through the efforts of Hugh Rodham undermines public confidence in the President’s exercise of the clemency power and in the equality of our laws.

I. THE CARLOS VIGNALI COMMUTATION

A. The Case Against Carlos Vignali

On December 20, 1993, a federal grand jury in Minnesota
issued a 34-count indictment against 30 defendants. The
indictment resulted from the largest drug investigation in Minnesota history.\1\ According to the indictment, Carlos Vignali and his co-defendants sent large quantities of cocaine to Minnesota by mail from California, converted it to crack, and distributed it quickly on the street.\2\ Vignali was indicted on one count of conspiring to distribute cocaine; two
counts of using facilities in interstate commerce with the intent to promote a business enterprise involving narcotics; and one count of illegally using a communication facility to facilitate the distribution of cocaine.\3\ According to the government, Vignali and his associates sold a kilogram of crack a day as late as November 1993.\4\
—————————————————————————
\1\ Superceding Indictment, U.S. v. Vignali (D. Minn. Dec. 30,
1993) (Exhibit 1). See also Drug Ring Case Wrapped up with 2 Convicted,
1 Acquitted, Star Trib. (Minneapolis-St. Paul), Dec. 13, 1994, at 2B.
\2\ Id; Superceding Indictment, U.S. v. Vignali (D. Minn. Dec. 30,
1993) (Exhibit 1).
\3\ Id.
\4\ Drug Ring Case Wrapped up with 2 Convicted, 1 Acquitted, Star
Trib. (Minneapolis-St. Paul), Dec. 13, 1994, at 2B.
—————————————————————————
The investigation that resulted in Vignali’s conviction
began locally with a probe of Gerald and Shirley Williams, who were suspected of distributing cocaine.\5\ As the scope of the investigation expanded, Minneapolis narcotics authorities obtained the assistance of federal law enforcement agencies.\6\
Based on information obtained from confidential informants and other sources, authorities initiated a court-ordered wiretap of several residential and cellular telephones to monitor calls to and from Gerald Williams regarding cocaine distribution.\7\
Many of the intercepted conversations to and from Williams’ residential and cellular telephones involved coded language and had to be interpreted by investigating officers.\8\
—————————————————————————
\5\ Telephone Interview with Tony Adams, Officer, Minneapolis
Police Department, 4th Precinct, Narcotics Division (Mar. 27, 2001).
\6\ Id.
\7\ Presentence Investigation, U.S. v. Vignali (D. Minn. 1994) at
para. 33 (Exhibit 2) (incorporated into Judgment in a Criminal Case as
finding of fact).
\8\ Id.
—————————————————————————
In the course of its wiretap surveillance, authorities
intercepted telephone conversations between Vignali and others during which cocaine shipments to Minnesota were discussed.\9\

Authorities ultimately learned that Williams’ original supplier of cocaine in California was Dale Evans, who in turn obtained his supply from Jonathan Gray and, later, Carlos Vignali.\10\

The evidence obtained in the investigation indicated a broad level of involvement by Vignali in a multi-state conspiracy to distribute cocaine.\11\ In that context, authorities discovered that, in October 1993, Vignali sold a substantial quantity of cocaine to Todd Hopson in Los Angeles for distribution in the Minnesota area \12\ and supplied an additional six kilograms of cocaine to Minnesota-area distributors through use of the mails
and the telephone.\13\
—————————————————————————
\9\ Id.
\10\ Id. at para. 31.
\11\ Id. at para. 30, 31, 42, 45, 46, 49, 57, 58, 59, 66, 67, 68,
71. See also Telephone Interview with Todd Jones, U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota, Department of Justice (May 2, 1001) (describing evidence supporting finding of Vignali’s broad level of involvement in
conspiracy). Before leaving the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Jones obtained, as the lead AUSA in the Vignali investigation, the court orders for the
wiretaps; represented the Government at suppression hearings; and presented the case to the grand jury. In 1998, Jones returned as the
U.S. Attorney for the U.S. District of Minnesota.
\12\ Presentence Investigation, U.S. v. Vignali (D. Minn. 1994) at
para. 68 (Exhibit 2) (incorporated into Judgment in a Criminal Case as
finding of fact).
\13\ Id. at para. 42.
—————————————————————————
On November 9, 1993, Minnesota law enforcement executed warrants on several individuals involved in the drug conspiracy, including Dale Evans.\14\ Within Evans’ home and vehicles, law enforcement found an AK-47 assault rifle and ammunition, a Desert Eagle pistol and ammunition, a Smith and Wesson 9 millimeter pistol and loaded magazine, a bag containing marijuana, pagers, addresses of other co-conspirators, pictures of him and some of the other co-conspirators target-shooting in California, and various other items.\15\ Searches and arrests of other co-conspirators likewise revealed large amounts of cash, cocaine and other contraband, drug paraphernalia, guns, and ammunition.\16\ As a
result of these searches and arrests and with the assistance of Los Angeles law enforcement, Carlos Vignali was arrested in Los Angeles on May 6, 1994,\17\ and extradited to Minnesota for trial.\18\

—————————————————————————
\14\ Id. at para. 85, 87.
\15\ Id. at para. 87.
\16\ Id. at para. 85-101. See also Telephone Interview with Tony Adams, Officer, Minneapolis Police Department, 4th Precinct, Narcotics
Division (Mar. 27, 2001).
\17\ Evans immediately cooperated with law enforcement. Id. He told
DEA that he worked for Vignali, a.k.a., “C-Low” and identified him with a still-shot photograph of Vignali’s appearance in a rap video.
\18\ Presentence Investigation, U.S. v. Vignali (D. Minn. 1994) at para. 102 (Exhibit 2). When he was arrested, Vignali stated that he knew Gray but had not seen him for about a year; that Gray introduced
him to Evans, who was interested in possibly buying his townhouse; and that no one had ever referred to him as “C-Low.”
—————————————————————————
Vignali’s trial began on October 27, 1994. In his opening statement to the jury, Vignali’s defense attorney, Danny Davis, repeatedly characterized the alleged drug conspiracy as “a black drug network”:

[T]he indictment that His Honor read for you–it is a
sensitive suggestion about the evidence in this case–
and I do it with complete deference to what the court suggested earlier about drugs, and our sensitivities,
about race, and our sensitivities–but this conspiracy,
the evidence will show, really comes down to a black
drug dealing network. One by one those drug dealers,
that the prosecution has found it necessary to come in and put on as witnesses, will make clear this is a nationwide black drug-dealing network. You can’t get
around it. Disabuse yourself that I am prejudiced when
I say that. It is a fact. My client is not [black]
.\19\
—————————————————————————
\19\ Transcript of Trial, U.S. v. Vignali (D. Minn. Oct. 27, 1994)
at 113-14.

—————————————————————————
Counsel for the co-defendants thereupon moved for a mistrial:

Mr. Fenster [Counsel for Melvin Campbell]: [I]t is offensive, what he is doing, and I think that just because he is a defense counsel doesn’t excuse him from this kind of offensive behavior, and I think the
court–I don’t know about a mistrial, maybe that is not
appropriate–I am not quite sure what to do, but I think I will move for a mistrial. I think that kind of
presentation to the jury is so offensive to the fabric of our law that it is impossible for the jury to now be
able to have a fair trial when he’s painted the other
defendants in a black drug-dealing network. Certainlythe prosecution would have a mistrial if they did that.

Mr. Cascarano [Counsel for Todd Hopson]: I join in that
motion. Mr. Gray [Counsel for Claude Oliver Phillips]: I join in that motion and, if the court doesn’t grant it, I move to strike every word that Mr. Davis has said about a black drug network around the nation. And, if he says it again, I ask he be jailed. It is the worst conduct I have seen by a defense lawyer in twenty-four years.

Mr. Cascarano: Your Honor, [what] Mr. Davis has done is paint not only the three black defendants as not clothed with the presumption of innocence, but what he has done is he has painted them guilty by virtue of their skin color.\20\
—————————————————————————
\20\ Id. at 115-16.

The district court denied the motion for a mistrial.
However, it did caution the jury that the defendants’ race should play no role in its determination of their guilt or innocence.\21\ Even though the court did not grant a mistrial, Vignali’s crude effort to play the race card against his codefendants is highly troubling. Vignali’s conduct, through his counsel, is even more troubling when considered in light of the fact that one of his supporters later claimed, without any
factual support, that Vignali was the victim of racial
prejudice at trial.

—————————————————————————
\21\ On appeal, co-defendant Todd Hopson argued that those comments made by Vignali’s attorney were so prejudicial that he was entitled to a new trial. U.S. v. Williams, 97 F.3d 240, 244 (8th Cir. 1996).
However, the appellate court found that Hopson failed to show prejudice. In particular, the court observed that the jury’s verdict indicated that it declined any invitation to use race as a proxy for guilt. In support of that view, the court cited the jury’s acquittal of
co-defendant Claude Phillips, an African-American, and its conviction of Vignali, a Hispanic, on three of four counts.
—————————————————————————
At Vignali’s trial, the government presented compelling evidence showing that he conspired to traffic cocaine, aided and abetted the mailing of at least two packages of cocaine from California to Minnesota, and used the telephone to facilitate the sale of cocaine. That evidence included the testimony of various co-conspirators, including Dale Evans, Gerald Williams, and Ronald Nunn. Evans testified that, beginning in March 1993, he bought cocaine from Jonathan Gray and typically mailed that cocaine to Gerald Williams in Minnesota for distribution.\22\ Evans also testified that Gray
informed him in 1993 that he was obtaining his cocaine from Vignali.\23\ Evans first met Vignali sometime during the summer of 1993 when they discussed distributing cocaine and agreed on
prices.\24\

—————————————————————————
\22\ Transcript of Trial, U.S. v. Vignali (D. Minn. Nov. 16, 1994)
at 86.
\23\ Id. at 100.
\24\ Id. at 101.
—————————————————————————
Evans also testified that Todd Hopson, one of the
Minneapolis-based cocaine distributors, flew to Los Angeles around October 20, 1993, and met with Evans and Vignali, and Vignali agreed to sell Hopson cocaine.\25\ Hopson, Evans, and a friend of Evans then followed Vignali to an East Los Angeles apartment where Hopson bought between $36,000 and $70,000 of cocaine from Vignali.\26\ Evans testified that prior to leaving
Los Angeles for Minnesota, he made arrangements with Carlos Vignali and Jonathan Gray to have an additional six kilograms of cocaine sent to the residence of Todd Hopson’s relative in Minnesota.\27\
—————————————————————————
\25\ Id. at 119.
\26\ Id. at 120-21.
\27\ Id. at 137-43. Transcript of Trial, U.S. v. Vignali (D. Minn.
Nov. 17, 1994) at 10-12 (Evans testifying that he planned with Ronald Nunn to pick up Hopson and collect a parcel mailed by Vignali at the residence of Hopson’s relative in Egan, Minnesota).
—————————————————————————
On October 21, 1993, officers conducted surveillance on
Evans, Ronald Nunn, and Todd Hopson.\28\ In the course of that surveillance, officers observed Ronald Nunn picking up Evans at Gerald Williams’ apartment in Minneapolis.\29\ Nunn and Evans then drove to Hopson’s home in Apple Valley, Minnesota, picked him up, and went to the drop-off location in Eagan, Minnesota.\30\ They picked up a large parcel and returned with it to the Apple Valley residence.\31\ Evans, Nunn, and Hopson
detected police surveillance while driving and attempted
evasive maneuvers.\32\ After Evans noticed that he was being tailed by undercover surveillance, he paged Vignali and Gray in Los Angeles from his cell phone with the emergency code “911.” After he had managed to shake off his pursuers, Evans spoke with Gray and Vignali. They did not realize that their conversation was being monitored by the police. Evans told
Vignali that “[t]hey followed us all around.” \33\ He further stated that “[w]e had to shake them, get them off, one in front, back one came, parked down the street, waiting for us, dog, undercrizzovers.” \34\ Evans testified that by “undercrizzovers” he was referring to undercover police and was conveying that he was being chased by the police.\35\ Evans also told Vignali that he had to start “busting u-turns” to
evade the police.\36\ In response to Evans’ report, Vignali asked, “Is that right? So everything’s cool, though?” \37\ Vignali later asked Evans, “How long ago was this?” \38\ As Evans was continuing to talk to Vignali about the “undercrizzovers,” Vignali asked, “Hey, but, you, you, you, um, you made everything straight, right?” \39\ Vignali also asked, “Don’t you think you should be careful before you bust
a move?” \40\ Evans responded, “that’s what I’m doing.” \41\
Vignali later paged Evans to determine whether Evans was
arrested.
—————————————————————————
\28\ Transcript of Trial, U.S. v. Vignali (D. Minn. Nov. 14, 1994)
at 184-86 (testimony of Officer Tony Adams).
\29\ Id.
\30\ Transcript of Trial, U.S. v. Vignali (D. Minn. Nov. 17, 1994)
at 16 (testimony of Dale Evans).
\31\ Id.
\32\ Id. at 14 (Evans testifying that Nunn detected undercover
police surveillance).
\33\ Transcript of Trial, U.S. v. Vignali (D. Minn. Nov. 22, 1994)
at 51 (testimony of Dale Evans); Transcript of Trial, U.S. v. Vignali
(D. Minn. Nov. 29, 1994) at 204 (Vignali testifying that Evans paged
him “911”).
\34\ Transcript of Trial, U.S. v. Vignali (D. Minn. Nov. 22, 1994)
at 51.
\35\ Id. at 51, 56 (testifying that he later described to Vignali,
“They were following us, riding and shining”).
\36\ Transcript of Trial, U.S. v. Vignali (D. Minn. Nov. 29, 1994)
at 276.
\37\ Transcript of Trial, U.S. v. Vignali (D. Minn. Nov. 22, 1994)
at 51.
\38\ Id. at 52.
\39\ Id.
\40\ Id. at 53.
\41\ Id. at 54.
—————————————————————————
At trial, Vignali contended that, during his conversation with Evans, he did not know what Evans meant by “undercrizzovers” and that he was disoriented because Evans’ call had woken him.\42\ Vignali testified that he inferred only that “something was wrong” with a $20,000 “business loan” that he supplied to Jonathan Gray \43\ and that Evans either lost or someone stole that money.\44\ At trial, prosecutors pointed out that Vignali’s defense made no sense. Though he claimed to be confused and “freshly woken up,” Vignali cautioned his friend to “be careful” and asked if “everything was cool.” The trial transcript makes it clear that Vignali’s defense was implausible:
—————————————————————————
\42\ Transcript of Trial, U.S. v. Vignali (D. Minn. Nov. 29, 1994)
at 204.
\43\ Vignali claimed that Gray had told him that he needed $20,000
for a short-term business deal involving Stacy Augmon and several other
professional basketball players. Transcript of Trial, U.S. v. Vignali
(D. Minn. Nov. 29, 1994) at 248-49 (cross examination of Carlos
Vignali); Transcript of Trial, U.S. v. Vignali (D. Minn. Dec. 1, 1994)
at 39-40 (direct examination by Horacio Vignali); Transcript of Trial,
U.S. v. Vignali (D. Minn. Dec. 5, 1994) at 232 (closing argument of Carlos Vignali).

According to Vignali, Gray assured him that he would get $25,000 back in a matter of days and that, if the deal fell through, Gray would sell his Porsche to cover Vignali’s losses. Transcript of Trial, U.S. v. Vignali (D. Minn. Nov. 29, 1994) at 192-93. Vignali claimed that he had $20,000 in cash to loan Gray because he had saved his allowance since he was a young child and that the resulting stack of $100 bills, which he had ironed and carefully stacked in his closet, represented his “life savings.” See Transcript of Trial, U.S. v. Vignali (D.
Minn. Dec. 1, 1994) at 40-43. According to Vignali, Gray returned to him the $20,000 and an additional $5,000. See Transcript of Trial, U.S. v. Vignali (D. Minn. Nov. 29, 1994) at 188. Also, according to Vignali,
a second “business loan” was made when Vignali “loaned” Gray $25,000, which, with $5,000 interest, resulted in the $30,000 referred to on the tapes. Id. at 192-95, 273-75.
\44\ Id. at 173, 204, 259; Transcript of Trial, U.S. v. Vignali (D.
Minn. Dec. 5, 1994) at 232.

Dunne. I thought that you said, on direct examination,
that you didn’t understand what he meant by undercrizzovers

—————————————————————————
because you had just gotten up?

Vignali. Yes, he, he had just woken me up with the page, sir.

Dunne. Okay. And you will agree with me, will you not,
that the time on this transcript [is 12:09 p.m.],
Minneapolis time? \45\
—————————————————————————
\45\ Transcript of Trial, U.S. v. Vignali (D. Minn. Nov. 29, 1994)
at 269-70.

—————————————————————————
* * *

Dunne. You say, when Dale gives you the explanation
about the under crizzovers . . . “Is that right?”

Vignali. Yes.

Dunne. Do you say–you don’t say to him, “Dale what
are you talking about?”

Vignali. No.

Dunne. Okay. And you don’t say, “I don’t understand
this?”

Vignali. No, sir. Bear in mind that I, I had just
freshly woken up.\46\
—————————————————————————
\46\ Id. at 273.

—————————————————————————
* * *

Dunne. Now you just said that the reason you called . .
. [was] that you were concerned about your money?

Vignali. Yes sir.

Dunne. Concerned enough to say Don’t you think you
should be careful before you bust a move?

Vignali. Yes sir.

Dunne. But you don’t ask him what the problem is?

Vignali. I, I have a little understanding that
something wrong is going on, but I’m not exactly sure,
he didn’t make it clear to me.\47\
—————————————————————————
\47\ Transcript of Trial, U.S. v. Vignali (D. Minn. Nov. 30, 1994)
at 10-11.

—————————————————————————
* * *

Dunne. What do you mean, something is going wrong?

Vignali. I have no idea. I wasn’t there.

Dunne. What did you think was going wrong with your 25,000 dollars?

Vignali. I have no idea.

Dunne. You have no idea?

Vignali. No, sir. I thought maybe, when he told me that it was smashing, maybe something was following him
trying–maybe trying to carjack him or something, I
don’t know–and then he was going to try to tell me, Well I lost your money, or something. I was just
concerned about, in that aspect.\48\
—————————————————————————
\48\ Id. at 12-13.

—————————————————————————
* * *

Dunne. Now let me ask you, during this phone
conversation where you are concerned about Dale’s
busting a move with your 25,000 dollars because someone
might carjack him. Do you ever tell Dale: Dale, maybe
you should call the police if someone is trying to
carjack you?

Vignali. I, I didn’t, again I will tell you I didn’t
know exactly what was going on.

Dunne. But you thought somebody was trying to carjack
him?

Vignali. It was, it was the morning. I’m–my head–I
had just woken up, I wasn’t–it–nothing was clear to
me, it never was clear to me.\49\
—————————————————————————
\49\ Id. at 13.

Evans testified that he returned to California the day
after he escaped the undercover surveillance.\50\ But, before returning to California, he mailed himself the money he obtained for the cocaine.\51\ Evans told Vignali and Jonathan Gray in intercepted telephone conversations that he would meet with them to give them the money.\52\
—————————————————————————
\50\ Transcript of Trial, U.S. v. Vignali (D. Minn. Nov. 17, 1994)
at 56.
\51\ Id. at 56.
\52\ Transcript of Trial, U.S. v. Vignali (D. Minn. Nov. 14, 1994)
at 189, 193 (Officer Tony Adams); Transcript of Trial, U.S. v. Vignali
(D. Minn. Nov. 17, 1994) at 56-58 (Evans testifying that he received
money he mailed to himself in California and took about $80,000 or
$90,000 to Vignali and Gray at Vignali’s house).
—————————————————————————
On October 26, 1993, agents tapped into a phone
conversation between Dale Evans and Gerald Williams regarding a
new shipment of cocaine, six kilograms sent from Los Angeles to
Ronald Nunn’s Minnesota home.\53\ That shipment was intercepted
by postal inspectors on or about October 28, 1993.\54\ On
October 31, 1993, agents overheard a call between Williams,
Evans, and Carlos Vignali regarding the October 26th shipment.
Evans asked, “Love [the cocaine shipment] never got there?”
\55\ Williams replied, “no.” \56\ Evans stated that they had
called the post office to see if the package had arrived.\57\
At that point, Vignali, who was apparently with Evans, got on
the telephone, said “[t]his is the other end,” and told
Williams to send somebody into the post office to find out
about the package.\58\ Vignali then said, “We sent that right
down that day” and told Williams to get on “good horns [a
public telephone].” \59\
—————————————————————————
\53\ Transcript of Trial, U.S. v. Vignali, (D. Minn. Nov. 22, 1994)
at 70 (Evans); Transcript of Trial, U.S. v. Vignali (D. Minn. Nov. 17,
1994) at 59-60, 64-66 (Evans testifying to conversation). See also
Presentence Investigation, U.S. v. Vignali (D. Minn. 1994) at para. 57-
58 (Exhibit 2).
\54\ Id. at para. 65.
\55\ Transcript of Trial, U.S. v. Vignali (D. Minn. Nov. 22, 1994)
at 69. “Love” was the code word used by the conspirators to refer to
cocaine.
\56\ Transcript of Trial, U.S. v. Vignali (D. Minn. Dec. 5, 1994)
at 164. See also Transcript of Trial, U.S. v. Vignali (D. Minn. Nov.
22, 1994) at 66-68.
\57\ Transcript of Trial, U.S. v. Vignali (D. Minn. Dec. 5, 1994)
at 164.
\58\ Transcript of Trial, U.S. v. Vignali (D. Minn. Nov. 22, 1994)
at 70-71.
\59\ Transcript of Trial, U.S. v. Vignali (D. Minn. Nov. 17, 1994)
at 68.
—————————————————————————
During that conversation, a prospective 15-kilogram deal
was discussed.\60\ The parties conferred about whether the
quantity should be broken up into one or two kilogram shipments
or shipped all at once.\61\ They also discussed the prospect
that the buyers might not want to pay for the shipment up front
before obtaining all of their cocaine.\62\ They further
discussed having someone either drive the shipment from
California to Minnesota or having someone come down from
Minnesota to California.\63\
—————————————————————————
\60\ Id. at 75-76.
\61\ Id. at 76.
\62\ Id.
\63\ Id. at 76-77. That transaction appears not to have been
consummated.
—————————————————————————
In attempting to explain away these conversations, Vignali
argued that the money referred to “life savings” he
accumulated as a child from his father and ultimately “lent”
to Jonathan Gray. Vignali supposedly lent Gray, who had been
recently released from jail for a crime Vignali knew nothing
about, a $20,000 “business loan” for a project which Vignali
also knew nothing about. This part of Vignali’s story met with
skepticism from prosecutors:

Dunne. Now when you gave Jonathon [Gray] this 20,000
dollars for this loan . . . for this business
proposition or whatever, did he show you any kind of
contract?

Vignali. No, he didn’t.

Dunne. Did he show you any kind of paperwork about this
business proposition?

Vignali. No, he did not.

Dunne. Did he have you sign anything to validate that
you were giving him 20,000 dollars in cash?

Vignali. No, sir.

* * *

Dunne. And do you recall how much money was in your
checking account at the time you had 20,000 dollars in
a safe in your house?

Vignali. No, I never, I never kept much money . . . in
the bank, I’m sorry.

Dunne. Well, when you have money in a bank you earn
interest. Right?

Vignali. If it is in your savings account, yes.

Dunne. Are you earning any interest on 20,000 dollars
in a safe in your house?

Vignali. No, but it is in my possession.\64\
—————————————————————————
\64\ Transcript of Trial, U.S. v. Vignali (D. Minn. Nov. 29, 1994)
at 240, 243.

—————————————————————————
* * *

Dunne. In 1992 you file an income tax return where you
declared your income was thirteen thousand nine hundred
nine dollars? . . . Now the 20,000 dollars that you had
in the closet at home, was that part of the thirteen
thousand dollars that you made in 1992?

Vignali. That was part of the money that I had
accumulated over my lifetime.

Dunne. Over your lifetime?

Vignali. Absolutely.

Dunne. Okay. And so all of your life savings you put in
. . . the closet in the townhome.\65\
—————————————————————————
\65\ Id. at 247-48.

Rather than refute the facts prosecutors had marshaled
against him, Vignali argued that the co-conspirators who
cooperated with law enforcement made “sweetheart” deals for
leniency. In particular, Vignali charged that Dale Evans had
falsely identified Vignali as his source of cocaine in
California because he wanted to conceal the involvement of his
family members and close associates in criminal activity.\66\
Nonetheless, the testimony of the cooperating co-conspirators
and law enforcement officers and the corroborating physical
evidence was overwhelming. The combination of evidence admitted
at trial showed beyond a reasonable doubt that Vignali supplied
significant quantities of cocaine from California for
distribution in Minnesota.
—————————————————————————
\66\ Transcript of Trial, U.S. v. Vignali (D. Minn. Dec. 5, 1994)
at 232.
—————————————————————————
On December 12, 1994, Vignali was convicted of all the crimes for which he was indicted, except one count of using facilities in interstate commerce for the promotion of his drug operation.\67\ All but one of the original thirty defendants in the drug conspiracy either pleaded guilty or were convicted.\68\ At sentencing, the probation office for the federal district of Minnesota submitted to Judge David S. Doty a pre-sentence report. This report recommended an imprisonment range of 151 to 188 months for Vignali.\69\ In determining the
proper sentence under the federal sentencing guidelines, Judge Doty found that Vignali was, in fact, a willing participant in the shipment of cocaine to Minnesota on October 20, 1993
.\70\

Judge Doty also found that Vignali was accountable for
distributing between five and fifteen kilograms of cocaine, rather than the fifteen to fifty kilograms suggested in the pre-sentence report.\71\ Vignali was sentenced to imprisonment for 175 months, about 15 years, on July 17, 1995.\72\ On January 20, 2001, President Clinton commuted Vignali’s sentence to time served.
—————————————————————————
\67\ Judgment in a Criminal Case, U.S. v. Vignali (D.Minn. July 17,
1995) (Exhibit 3).
\68\ Id. Claude Phillips, 50, of Memphis, Tennessee, was acquitted
of conspiring to distribute cocaine–the sole count against him in the
superceding indictment. Also convicted was Todd Hopson, 23, of Apple
Valley, Minnesota.
\69\ Id.
\70\ Id. Judge Doty also found that, in late October, co-defendant Todd Hopson traveled to California and co-defendant Dale Evans arranged for Hopson to buy additional quantities of cocaine from Vignali.
\71\ Id. Judge Doty did so by referring to the testimony of co-defendant Dale Evans. According to Evans, Vignali may have been the source of two packages of cocaine sent to Minnesota–one on October 21,
1993, and the other on October 28, 1993. Judge Doty noted that the second package was, in fact, seized by law enforcement authorities and found to have contained six kilograms of cocaine, and Evans testified
at trial that the first package contained four kilograms of cocaine.

However, Judge Doty found Evans’ testimony regarding the sale of additional quantities of cocaine by Vignali unpersuasive.
\72\ Id.
—————————————————————————

B. Vignali’s Efforts to Obtain Executive Clemency

As described below, 55-year old Horacio Carlos Vignali, a successful Los Angeles-area businessman,\73\ apparently used every tool at his disposal to see that his son would not fully serve out his prison sentence. When attempts to have his son released before sentencing and on appeal failed, Horacio, who cultivated political contacts over time through substantial campaign donations, fundraising activity,\74\ and civic
involvement, directed his considerable resources to a concerted effort to lobby President Clinton for an eleventh hour pardon
of his son.
—————————————————————————
\73\ Horacio Vignali, who immigrated to the United States in 1962, has owned several businesses, including parking lots, body shops, and real estate. See Richard Serrano and Stephen Braun, Working the American System, L.A. Times (L.A. Times Mag.) Apr. 29, 2001, at 10.

Apparently, Horacio Vignali has been financially successful and owns a $9 million home in Pacific Palisades that apparently once belonged to Sylvester Stallone. Id.
\74\ For example, Horacio Vignali has hosted several political fundraisers, including outdoor barbecue fundraisers (for which he became locally well known), and provided food for various political events. Id.
—————————————————————————
1. Initial Efforts to Reduce Vignali’s Sentence
a. Contacts with Prosecutors in Minnesota
Efforts to reduce Carlos Vignali’s sentence apparently
started soon after Vignali was convicted. According to
Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Dunne, who prosecuted Vignali in
Minneapolis, Vignali’s political associates exerted “a lot of
influence” in Vignali’s sentencing.\75\ Dunne explained that
he and the other prosecutors working on the case received
periodic calls from state representatives in California on
behalf of Carlos Vignali after the sentencing.\76\
Characterizing some of the calls as “perhaps improper
influence,” Dunne recalled that “they wanted to know: Is
there anything that could be done to help reduce the
sentence?” \77\ Denise Reilly, the lead government prosecutor
in the Vignali case, likewise confirmed that they “would get
calls from different people–politically placed” throughout
the course of the case.\78\ She characterized the input of
those who called “odd,” stating “I don’t know how they do
things in the rest of the country, but that isn’t what we do in
Minnesota.” \79\ Judge Reilly described the incoming calls as
inquiring, “are you sure you know what you’re doing?” and
“are you sure that you have the right person?” \80\ Judge
Reilly believed that the calls came from political officials in
Los Angeles.\81\
—————————————————————————
\75\ Richard A. Serrano and Stephen Braun, Drug Kingpin’s Release
Adds to Clemency Uproar, L.A. Times, Feb. 11, 2001, at A1.
\76\ Id.
\77\ Id.
\78\ Telephone Interview with the Honorable Denise Reilly, Juvenile
Court Judge, 4th Judicial District of Minnesota (Hennepin County) (May
11, 2001).
\79\ Id.
\80\ Id.
\81\ Id.
—————————————————————————
b. Vignali’s Appeal

Carlos Vignali appealed his conviction immediately after
the verdict. Vignali appealed to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, claiming juror misconduct, witness perjury, improper jury instruction, failure to grant a severance, and improper
exclusion of defense evidence. A unanimous appellate court
upheld Vignali’s conviction, dismissing Vignali’s arguments
with minimal discussion.\82\ In affirming the district court’s
ruling, the appellate court agreed that “there was
considerable evidence of Vignali’s guilt.” \83\ Vignali
subsequently sought habeas relief, asserting ineffectiveness of
counsel.\84\ This claim was also denied.\85\
—————————————————————————
\82\ U.S. v. Williams, 97 F.3d 240 (8th Cir. 1996).
\83\ Id. at 246.
\84\ NARA Document Production at 2 (Report to the President on
Proposed Denial of Executive Clemency for Carlos Anibal Vignali, Jr.
(Jan. 12, 2001)) (Exhibit 4).
\85\ Id.
—————————————————————————
c. Letters to the White House and Justice
Department

Horacio Vignali was hard at work gathering political
support for his son’s cause even before filing his son’s
clemency petition. Vignali had a number of prominent California
politicians write letters to the White House in 1996,
requesting a “review” of Carlos Vignali’s case. At least five
similarly phrased letters were sent to the White House “Pardon
Secretary” requesting an examination of the case.\86\
—————————————————————————
\86\ There is no position of “Pardon Secretary” at the White House. It is not clear who received and reviewed these letters when they were sent to the White House in 1996. However, the letters were ultimately made part of the Vignali clemency file at the White House
Counsel’s Office years later in 2000.
—————————————————————————
The first letter, dated May 24, 1996, from California
Assembly Member Antonio Villaraigosa, stated, “After reviewing
Mr. Vignali’s case, I am convinced that he has been falsely
linked to a drug ring in Minneapolis, MN, and that his
conviction is a product of `guilt by association,’ among other
factors.” \87\ Villaraigosa noted that Carlos Vignali had no
prior record and that Vignali’s “military academy schooling
adds to his superior resume.” \88\ Villaraigosa was apparently
unaware that Vignali both had a prior criminal record and had
dropped out of military school.\89\ Under those circumstances,
Villaraigosa’s characterization of Vignali’s resume as
“superior” was, at best, hyperbole and, at worst, misleading.
Villaraigosa has since admitted that he did not independently
investigate the details of Carlos Vignali’s case and regretted
not having done so.\90\ Villaraigosa stated, “I was convinced
at the time . . . that his son was not a major player in this
drug ring. I made a mistake in not investigating.” \91\
Villaraigosa stated that he was moved by Horacio Vignali’s
emotional plea: “It was a conversation between fathers as much
as anything. . . . He was very distraught.” \92\
—————————————————————————
\87\ NARA Document Production (Letter from Antonio R. Villaraigosa,
Assembly Member, Forty-Fifth District, California Legislative Assembly,
to Pardon Secretary, the White House (May 24, 1996)) (Exhibit 5).
\88\ Id.
\89\ Presentence Investigation, U.S. v. Vignali (D. Minn. 1994) at
para. 130 (Exhibit 2).
\90\ Mateo Gold, Vignali Case Casts Shadow over Mayor’s Race, L.A.
Times, Feb. 28, 2001, at B1 (“I wrote that letter without talking to
prosecutors on the other end.”).
\91\ John Antczak, L.A. Heads Retract Support for Pardon, AP
Online, Feb. 13, 2001; See also Mateo Gold and Larry B. Stammer, 2 City
Leaders Say They Regret Helping Dealer; Clemency: Cardinal Mahony and
Politician Villaraigosa Say They Shouldn’t Have Written on Behalf of a
Cocaine Convict They Had Never Even Met, L.A. Times, Feb. 13, 2001, at
A22.
\92\ Matea Gold and Larry B. Stammer, 2 City Leaders Say They
Regret Helping Dealer; Clemency: Cardinal Mahony and Politician
Villaraigosa Say They Shouldn’t Have Written on Behalf of a Cocaine
Convict They Had Never Even Met, L.A. Times, Feb. 13, 2001, at A22. It
is widely believed that Villaraigosa’s involvement in the Vignali
matter cost him his election as mayor of Los Angeles to Robert Hahn.
See, e.g., Beth Barrett, Villaraigosa’s Refusal to Hit Back Cost Him–
Rival’s Attack Went Unanswered, Daily News of L.A., June 7, 2001, at
N9.
—————————————————————————
On May 28, 1996, Los Angeles City Councilman Richard
Alatorre wrote in support of Vignali:

It is difficult for me to understand why Mr. Vignali
received such an exorbitant sentence. It has been
pointed out that this may have been due to the fact
that his case was grouped together with a much larger
case involving the sale of drugs. Others contend that
it may have been because of his Latino background,
which I hope is not the case.\93\
—————————————————————————
\93\ NARA Document Production (Letter from Richard Alatorre,
Councilman, Fourteenth District, L.A. City Council, to Pardon
Secretary, the White House (May 28, 1996)) (Exhibit 6).

However, Alatorre was not fit to provide a character reference
for Vignali or anyone else. Throughout his extensive career in
Los Angeles politics, Alatorre was the subject of various
public corruption investigations, recently pleaded guilty to
federal tax evasion charges, and is himself a proven cocaine
user.\94\
—————————————————————————
\94\ Department of Justice Press Release No. 01-062, Former Los
Angeles City Councilman Richard Alatorre Charged with Tax Evasion for
Failing to Report Bribes; Defendant Agrees to Plead Guilty to Felony
Offense, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California,
Apr. 3, 2001. As a result of Alatorre’s failing to report bribes, he
evaded the payment of at least $12,970 in federal income tax. In
addition to pleading guilty, Alatorre has agreed to file an amended
1996 federal income tax return and to pay any penalties and interest
assessed by the Internal Revenue Service.
Less than a year after being elected to the Los Angeles City
Council, Alatorre agreed to pay a record fine of more than $140,000 for
improperly financing his campaign for City Council with money he raised
as a state lawmaker. Rich Connell and Robert J. Lopez, Alatorre’s Fall
Belies Early Promise, Achievements, L.A. Times, Jan. 17, 1999, at Al.
In 1988, Alatorre was fined for attempting to steer a $722,000 contract
to The East Los Angeles Community Union (“TELACU”), a firm that was
headed by a longtime friend. Earlier, TELACU had flown Alatorre to a
meeting at Lake Tahoe and paid him a $1,000 speaking fee.
When Alatorre was on the board of the Metropolitan Transportation
Authority (“MTA”), which administers Los Angeles’ multibillion-dollar
subway and light rail system, Alatorre reportedly solicited
contributions of more than $500,000 from organizations with interests
before the MTA and the City Council for the benefit of a children’s
charity he helped create. Rich Connell and Robert J. Lopez, Alatorre’s
Fall Belies Early Promise, Achievements, L.A. Times, Jan. 17, 1999, at
Al; Robert J. Lopez and Rich Connell, MTA Probes Charities Promoted by
Alatorre, L.A. Times, July 7, 1997, at Al. That charity exclusively
hired Eventually Yours, an event-planning firm founded by Alatorre’s
third wife, Angie, paying the firm tens of thousands of dollars in
fees. Ultimately, Alatorre was fined $8,000 by state and local watchdog
agencies for improperly intervening on behalf of the firm before a city
licensing agency. That was the maximum fine allowed under state and
local laws. Also, in the custody dispute described below, Alatorre
conceded to receiving a $13,200 loan (without a repayment plan) from
TELACU. At that time, Alatorre was also supporting a TELACU team for a
$65 million MTA subway contract and a TELACU partnership for a $2
million city development for a shopping center in his district.
The investigation of Eventually Yours broadened an earlier probe of
how another firm that was ranked last in competing for a lucrative
subway contract, but which Alatorre backed, came to be recommended for
that contract. Robert J. Lopez and Rich Connell, MTA Probes Charities
Promoted by Alatorre, L.A. Times, July 7, 1997, at Al. That controversy
resulted in the resignation of MTA’s executive director, who selected
the team after it made a $20,000 donation to a golf tournament
benefiting a charity of which Alatorre was an honorary chairman.
Eventually Yours was also investigated by the California Attorney
General’s Office for failing to account for hundreds of thousands of
dollars in charitable donations it helped raise. Robert J. Lopez and
Rich Connell, MTA Probes Charities Promoted by Alatorre, L.A. Times,
July 7, 1997, at Al. After repeated press inquiries for information
regarding the firm’s five-year failure to account for certain
contributions, the firm’s attorney stated that the firm’s forte was in
staging “spectacular” events–not in faithfully tending to
administrative matters. In the course of its investigation, the State
Attorney General’s Office received an inquiry from State Senator
Richard Polanco, generally well known to be an Alatorre ally. According
to a State Justice Department official, Polanco stated that he was
concerned about the pressure being brought to bear on the firm. The
official recounted that Polanco said he knew the people associated with
Eventually Yours to be upstanding and asked why they were targeted. In
response, Polanco was told that, because the investigation was pending,
he could be given no information about the matter. Robert J. Lopez and
Rich Connell, MTA Probes Charities Promoted by Alatorre, L.A. Times,
July 7, 1997, at Al.
In the course of a child custody dispute regarding his niece in
which Alatorre’s competency to care for the girl was in controversy,
Superior Court Judge Henry W. Shatford found that “Richard Alatorre’s
credibility has been totally shredded as to his profound declaration
[that] he has been clean from the use of cocaine.” Robert J. Lopez and
Rich Connell, Judge Says Test Shows Alatorre Is Using Cocaine, L.A.
Times, Sept. 30, 1998, at Al. Judge Shatford arrived at that finding
after Alatorre failed a surprise courthouse drug test. The judge
ordered the test after Alatorre repeatedly denied using cocaine with an
individual on whose behalf he aggressively helped obtain government
business. That individual was a waste hauler and demolition specialist
who pleaded guilty to possessing and intending to distribute heroin.
That individual has publicly stated that Alatorre has written him
letters of reference for public contracts, “attesting to my
character.” Alatorre publicly explained that the white powder his
former executive secretary testified to having seen on his nostrils and
clothes upon his return from business meetings might have been
dandruff, denture powder, or Doritos. Alatorre’s former secretary also
testified that, following Alatorre’s divorce from his second wife when
Alatorre was facing financial problems, he began mysteriously producing
wads of $100 bills. The secretary claimed that some of the money came
after meetings with businessmen and other supporters. After reviewing
financial records involving associates of Alatorre with government
business interests, Judge Shatford noted that Alatorre had
“questionable conflict of interest financial dealings as a city
councilman.” Id. Ultimately, Judge Shatford stripped Alatorre of
guardianship of his niece and barred him from visiting with her until
he successfully completed a drug detoxification program.
—————————————————————————
On July 22, 1996, State Senator Richard Polanco requested
that the White House “carefully review” the Vignali case and
stated that Vignali had “no prior criminal record.” \95\
On July 26, 1996, Archbishop Roger Mahony, Cardinal of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, wrote to “add [his] voice recommending that all of the process, the law, and the facts in this case be reviewed fully to determine if justice has been
achieved[.]” \96\

Finally, Congressman Esteban Torres wrote to
Attorney General Reno complaining that Vignali was not
“individually tried before a jury of his peers” and asking
that the Attorney General “carefully review” Vignali’s
case.\97\
—————————————————————————
\95\ NARA Document Production (Letter from Richard Polanco, State
Senator, Twenty-Second District, California Legislature, to Pardon
Secretary, the White House (July 22, 1996)) (Exhibit 7).
\96\ NARA Document Production (Letter from Archbishop Roger Mahony,
Cardinal of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, to Pardon Secretary, the
White House (July 26, 1996)) (Exhibit 8).
\97\ NARA Document Production (Letter from Esteban E. Torres,
Member of Congress, U.S. House of Representatives, to Janet Reno, U.S.
Attorney General, Department of Justice (July 3, 1996)) (Exhibit 9).
Congressman Torres also wrote to the warden of Vignali’s prison in
Colorado, asking that Vignali be transferred to a prison closer to his
family in California. Stephen Braun, et. al, L.A. Politicians Urged
Pardon of Cocaine Dealer, L.A. Times, Feb. 12, 2001, at A1.
—————————————————————————
Even these initial stages of lobbying for Carlos Vignali involved a significant amount of misinformation.

For example, Villaraigosa, Alatorre, Polanco, and Torres all claimed in their letters that Carlos Vignali had no prior criminal record. In fact, Vignali had two prior criminal convictions for fighting in a public place and vandalism and two prior arrests for reckless driving and inflicting corporal injury on a cohabitant.\98\ It is unclear whether the political figures writing on Vignali’s behalf were aware of Vignali’s criminal history and chose to disregard it or were misinformed by those lobbying on Vignali’s behalf.
—————————————————————————
\98\ Presentence Investigation, U.S. v. Vignali (D. Minn. 1994) at
para. 117, 118 (Exhibit 2).
—————————————————————————
Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alatorre’s claims of
racial prejudice were similarly baseless. Alatorre claimed that
“others contend” Vignali’s sentence was the result of racial
prejudice. However, the Committee is unaware of any
allegations, other than Alatorre’s own letter, that Vignali
received unfair treatment because of his ethnic background. In
fact, Vignali’s attorney argued at trial that Vignali was
innocent because he was Hispanic and, therefore, could not have
been part of the “black drug dealing network” of his
codefendants. Indeed, Vignali’s black codefendants appealed
their convictions on the basis of the potentially prejudicial
statements by Vignali’s lawyer.\99\
—————————————————————————
\99\ U.S. v. Williams, 97 F.3d 240, 244 (8th Cir. 1996).
—————————————————————————
2. Vignali’s Clemency Petition
After Carlos Vignali’s appeal failed, the Vignali family began to pursue a grant of executive clemency to get him out of prison
. Horacio Vignali initially reached out to Danny Davis,
Carlos’ criminal defense lawyer, to assist with efforts to obtain presidential clemency for him.\100\ However, Davis, who represented Carlos Vignali at trial in Minnesota, declined because he calculated the probability of obtaining clemency for
Carlos as “a snowball in Hades.”
\101\ Sometime thereafter, Horacio Vignali himself embarked on a campaign to obtain a presidential grant of clemency for his son.\102\
—————————————————————————
\100\ Richard A. Serrano and Stephen Braun, Drug Kingpin’s Release
Adds to Clemency Uproar, L.A. Times, Feb. 11, 2001.
\101\ Id.
\102\ Id.
—————————————————————————
Carlos Vignali’s clemency petition was filed with the Justice Department on August 24, 1998. Vignali’s brief petition laid out his reasons for seeking a commutation:

Vignali loaned $25,000 to a friend, which were [sic]
interpreted through slang taped telephone conversations
to involve the purchase of drugs. No drugs were seized
from Vignali, and he was convicted solely on the
testimony of a codefendant who received leniency. The
taped conversations did not mention either drugs or
money but were interpreted to have those subjects.
Vignali was tried in Minnesota where he had never been
or had any significant contacts with.

* * *

The sentence of 175 months for a 21 year old, first
time, nonviolent offender with no significant prior
record is unwarranted. Based solely on a $25,000 loan
to a friend, falsely interpreted telephone recordings,
and a codefendant’s highly rewarded testimony, the
punishment does not fit the crime as proved. The
concept of holding minor players responsible for any
and all drugs of a conspiracy, irregardless of whether
that minor play [sic] had any knowledge or nexus with
those drugs, undermines the concept of fairness. No
drugs were introduced at trial as to Vignali, who never
visited Minneapolis where the case was tried, yet he
was held responsible for the drugs involved in a 30
defendant conspiracy, when he knew, at best, two
people. By the end of 1998, Vignali will have served,
with good time, almost five years, which is the
mandatory minimum for the drugs which could have been
bought with his loan.\103\
—————————————————————————
\103\ NARA Document Production (Petition for Commutation of
Sentence ) (Exhibit 10).

The Vignali clemency petition was a poorly drafted rehash of issues that had been thoroughly addressed at trial and on appeal. Unlike most successful clemency petitions, Vignali’s petition continued to maintain actual innocence. Yet, it failed to present any new facts suggesting Vignali was indeed innocent. These flaws were easily recognized when the petition
was reviewed by individuals familiar with the Vignali case. In short, the pardon petition made a number of misleading statements
, including the following:
“Vignali loaned $25,000 to a friend, which were [sic]
interpreted through slang taped [sic] telephone conversations
to involve the purchase of drugs.” Vignali’s claim that he was
simply engaged in a business deal–not a drug deal–was
thoroughly disproved at trial. As described above, literally
dozens of pieces of evidence pointed to Vignali’s involvement
in a drug deal, including the testimony of his co-conspirators,
wiretap evidence, and the actual proceeds of the drug deal. In
the course of reviewing Vignali’s clemency application, the
White House was apparently not persuaded by Vignali’s
explanation at trial. On the last page of a copy of the report
from the Justice Department’s Pardon Attorney to President
Clinton declining to recommend Vignali’s application for
clemency, a handwritten note by a White House staffer reads
“Need to XC for Bruce [Lindsey]. Definitely isn’t simply
making a loan[.]” \104\
—————————————————————————
\104\ NARA Document Production (Report to the President on Proposed
Denial of Executive Clemency for Carlos Anibal Vignali, Jr.) at 4
(Exhibit 4) (handwritten note on last page of Report).
—————————————————————————
“[Vignali] was convicted solely on the testimony of a
codefendant who received leniency.” As described above, the
testimony of several witnesses proved Vignali’s role in the
conspiracy. The testimony of those witnesses was consistent
with and independently corroborated by wiretap interceptions of
communications among the co-conspirators, search warrant
evidence obtained from lawful searches of the co-defendant’s
homes and drug stash houses, and visual police surveillance.
Thus, as the Eighth Circuit noted on direct appeal, Vignali’s
conviction was supported by considerable evidence.
Agreements with defendants for cooperation in exchange for
leniency at sentencing are a widely-used tool used by
prosecutors to obtain evidence in criminal cases. Such
agreements are contemplated by the Federal Sentencing
Guidelines as a basis for downward departure from the
applicable guideline imprisonment range. Moreover, Vignali’s
sentence was commuted to a term shorter than even those of
defendants who actually cooperated with the Government. This
makes the clemency decision particularly egregious.
“Vignali was tried in Minnesota where he had never been or
had any significant contacts with.” This is a red herring.
Physical presence within the district where a criminal
defendant is to be tried has never been held to be a
requirement in determining venue. It is well-settled that the
appropriate focus for determining venue is the place of the
crime and that the inquiry into the place of the crime may
yield more than one appropriate venue or even a venue in which
the defendant has never set foot.\105\ In this case, Vignali
was charged with, among other things, aiding and abetting the
distribution of cocaine using facilities in interstate commerce
and conspiring to distribute cocaine. As described above, the
evidence that Vignali facilitated the interstate sale of
cocaine and conspired in Los Angeles to distribute cocaine in
Minnesota included testimony of cooperating co-defendants
(which was corroborated by wiretapped communications among the
co-conspirators), search warrant evidence, and visual police
surveillance. That evidence amply showed an interdependence
between Vignali and the Minnesota-area distributors. Therefore,
under prevailing case law, venue in the U.S. District of
Minnesota was clearly proper.
—————————————————————————
\105\ U.S. v. Cabrales, 524 U.S. 1 (1998); U.S. v. Stewart, 256
F.3d 231 (4th Cir. 2001).
—————————————————————————
“The sentence of 175 months for a 21-year old, first time,
nonviolent offender with no prior record is unwarranted.”
First, Vignali was not a “first time, nonviolent offender.”
Vignali’s counsel, Danny Davis, similarly misrepresented
Vignali’s criminal record when he told the jury in closing
argument that Vignali had “[n]o prior criminal record” and
cited “his unblemished past.” \106\ Hugh Rodham, who was
retained to lobby the White House on Vignali’s behalf, likewise
misrepresented Vignali’s criminal record to the White House
Counsel’s Office. In fact, Vignali had two prior convictions
and arrests. He was convicted in 1989 for fighting in a public
place and received a $183 fine. He was also convicted of
vandalism to which he pleaded no contest and received 12 months
probation and was ordered to pay restitution and complete 82
hours of community service work. In the course of his arrest
for vandalism, Vignali stated that he was associated with “The
87th Street West Side Boys” in Los Angeles.\107\ According to
police records, Vignali also admitted that he was a member of
the West Covina Mob.\108\ In 1988, Vignali was arrested for
reckless driving.\109\ Finally, Vignali was arrested in 1990
for inflicting corporal injury on a spouse/cohabitant, but that
case was dismissed. Second, Vignali’s sentence reflected the
gravity of his participation in a large-scale conspiracy in
which he served as the source of cocaine. It also reflected
both Vignali’s obstruction of justice in lying about his actual
role in the conspiracy before a judicial tribunal and his
obdurate refusal to accept any responsibility for his crimes.
—————————————————————————
\106\ See Transcript of Trial, U.S. v. Vignali (D. Minn. Dec. 5,
1994) at 229-30.
\107\ Presentence Investigation, U.S. v. Vignali (D. Minn. 1994) at
para. 117, 118 (Exhibit 2).
\108\ Id. at para. 117-18.
\109\ Id.
—————————————————————————
“No drugs were introduced at trial as to Vignali[.]”
Although this assertion appears to be true from the trial
record, the implication that Vignali’s verdict is therefore
unsupported by sufficient evidence is misleading. In fact, the
appellate court noted that Vignali’s verdict was well-supported
by the evidence admitted at trial. In sentencing Vignali under
the federal sentencing guidelines, the trial judge determined
how much cocaine was attributable to Vignali. Because the
parcels of cocaine attributable to Vignali had long since been
distributed or consumed, the judge looked to the testimony of
co-defendant Dale Evans. According to Evans, Vignali was the
source of two packages of cocaine sent to Minnesota, one on
October 21, 1993, and the other on or about October 28, 1993.
The judge found that Evans’ testimony as to the amount of
cocaine in the second package was corroborated by the postal
inspector’s seizure of the parcel and finding that it contained
six kilograms of cocaine. In contrast, the judge found that
Evans’ uncorroborated testimony as to additional quantities of
cocaine was not reliable. Nonetheless, he found that Evans’
testimony was credible so as to establish that Vignali
knowingly participated in distributing cocaine on more than one
occasion. Given the strength of the available evidence, the
judge’s determination that between five and fifteen kilograms
of cocaine were attributable to Vignali did not require the
physical presence of those parcels in court.
“[Vignali] was held responsible for the drugs involved in
a 30 defendant [sic] conspiracy, when he knew, at best, two
people.” The evidence admitted at trial against Vignali showed
that he was a member of a large-scale drug conspiracy and
facilitated the distribution of cocaine in Minnesota by
supplying Dale Evans, Gerald Williams, and Todd Hopson with
significant quantities of cocaine from Los Angeles. As such,
Evans’ association with the other members of the conspiracy was
irrelevant to any issue material to the government’s case.
The facts prove that every substantive assertion in
Vignali’s commutation petition was false and misleading. The
petition could have been easily refuted by anyone with a basic
familiarity with Vignali’s underlying conviction. The question
then is how the White House came to believe that Carlos Vignali
deserved an executive grant of clemency.
3. Supporters of Vignali’s Clemency Petition
In 2000, a number of prominent California politicians wrote
to the White House in support of Vignali’s release. Some were
the same individuals who wrote to the White House on Vignali’s
behalf four years earlier. In addition, a number of prominent
Californians called the White House and the Justice Department
to further press their arguments. The distortions of fact in
the Vignali clemency petition were repeated throughout the
campaign to win Vignali’s release.
a. Letters of Support from Prominent California
Politicians
It appears that from the earliest stages of his efforts to
obtain a commutation for his son, Horacio Vignali attempted to
enlist the support of various state and federal politicians and
other prominent Californians. By the time that the White House
reviewed Vignali’s clemency petition in January 2001, seven
different political figures had drafted letters to the White
House or Justice Department in support of Carlos Vignali’s
petition. Horacio Vignali apparently used a number of different
tactics to convince these individuals to sign onto his cause.

Perhaps most significantly, Horacio Vignali became a major political contributor to top federal, state, and local officeholders after his son was convicted in 1994.\110\ This made him a well-known figure in the Los Angeles political
community. Horacio Vignali contributed reportedly more than $160,000 to state and federal office holders after his son was incarcerated
.\111\ He reportedly gave $25,000 to former Governor Pete Wilson in 1994 and held a fundraiser for Governor
Gray Davis in 2000 that raised $75,000, including $25,900 from
himself.\112\ Horacio Vignali also reportedly gave $23,500 to
Davis before he became Governor \113\ and $35,000 to the
Democratic Party.\114\ In addition, he made large contributions
to a number of Los Angeles city and county officials and held
fundraisers and other political events at his Los Angeles
estate. While these contributions clearly gave Vignali the
access he needed to make his case to key political figures, it
is less clear why his case was received so positively. Most of
the politicians who endorsed Carlos Vignali’s clemency petition
now admit that their actions were a mistake and claim that they
took the positions they did out of a misplaced sympathy for a
father who was deeply hurt by his son’s imprisonment.
—————————————————————————
\110\ Did Politics Sway Clinton to Free Drug Dealer, L.A. Times,
Feb. 13, 2001, at A8.
\111\ Mateo Gold and Larry B. Stammer, 2 City Leaders Say They
Regret Helping Dealer; Clemency: Cardinal Mahony and Politician
Villaraigosa Say They Shouldn’t Have Written on Behalf of a Cocaine
Convict They Had Never Even Met, L.A. Times, Feb. 13, 2001, at 22; Rob
Morse, Still Have Bill to Kick Around, S.F. Chron., Feb. 14, 2001, at
A2; Dominic Berbeo, Hertzberg Had Part in Pardon Flap, Daily News of
L.A. (Valley Edition) Feb. 16, 2001, at N1.
\112\ Ted Rohrlich and Robert Lopez, Convict’s Father a Wealthy,
Well-Liked Mediator on the L.A. Political Scene; Profile: Horacio
Carlos Vignali Has Donated Thousands Across Party Lines. He Puts
Emphasis on Strengthening the Latino Community, Aides Say, L.A. Times,
Feb. 13, 2001, at A23.
\113\ Id.
\114\ Dominic Berbeo, Hertzberg Had Part in Pardon Flap, Daily News
of L.A. (Valley Edition) Feb. 16, 2001, at N1.
—————————————————————————
i. Congressman Xavier Becerra
Congressman Becerra conceded that the Vignalis were not members of his constituency but that Horacio had been a friend and contributor of his for five years.\115\ The Vignalis have donated at least $11,000 to Becerra’s political action committee, Leadership of Today and Tomorrow, between 1998 and 2001,\116\ $2,475 to Becerra’s congressional campaigns, and $3,500 to Becerra for the mayor’s race.\117\

—————————————————————————
\115\ Id.
\116\ Id. Dominic Berbeo, Hertzberg Had Part in Pardon Flap, Daily
News of L.A. (Valley Edition) Feb. 16, 2001, at N1.
\117\ Id. Mateo Gold and Larry B. Stammer, 2 City Leaders Say They
Regret Helping Dealer; Clemency: Cardinal Mahony and Politician
Villaraigosa Say They Shouldn’t Have Written on Behalf of a Cocaine
Convict They Had Never Even Met, L.A. Times, Feb. 13, 2001, at 22.
—————————————————————————
Congressman Becerra has explained to the press that he was initially approached by Horacio Vignali and Congressman Esteban Torres, who wanted to see if Becerra could assist the Vignali family.\118\ After Horacio Vignali asked for Becerra’s help, Becerra called the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of
California, Alejandro Mayorkas.\119\ Becerra asked Mayorkas about the case and whether a commutation could be granted.

Becerra recalls that Mayorkas looked into the case and called him back a few days later, telling him that the conviction was justified but that the sentence was too harsh.\120\
—————————————————————————
\118\ Id.
\119\ Richard A. Serrano and Stephen Braun, U.S. Attorney Pursued
Clemency Case, L.A. Times, Feb. 13, 2001, at A1.
\120\ Richard Serrano and Stephen Braun, Working the American
System, L.A. Times, Apr. 29, 2001, at A1.
—————————————————————————
Becerra also called Pardon Attorney Roger Adams about the
Vignali case.\121\ Becerra apparently called Adams on October
13, 1998, asking about the procedures followed by the Office of
the Pardon Attorney. On October 14, 1998, Adams sent Becerra a
lengthy letter explaining the conditions under which the Office
of the Pardon Attorney considered cases for commutation. Adams
noted that “commutation of sentence is usually recommended
only in exceptional circumstances, such as unwarranted
disparity or severity of sentence, the rendering of an
important service to the government not taken into account at
sentencing, or terminal illness. . . . Since President Clinton
has been in office, he has granted clemency only in three
commutation cases.” \122\
—————————————————————————
\121\ Interview with Roger Adams, Pardon Attorney, Department of
Justice (Feb. 27, 2001). Mateo Gold and Larry B. Stammer, 2 City
Leaders Say They Regret Helping Dealer; Clemency: Cardinal Mahony and
Politician Villaraigosa Say They Shouldn’t Have Written on Behalf of a
Cocaine Convict They Had Never Even Met, L.A. Times, Feb. 13, 2001, at
A22.
\122\ Justice Department Document Production Mayorkas 00029-30
(Letter from Roger Adams, Pardon Attorney, Department of Justice, to
Xavier Becerra, Member of Congress, U.S. House of Representatives (Oct.
14, 1998)) (Exhibit 11).
————————————————————————-
Becerra then drafted a letter to the White House in support
of Vignali. On November 21, 2000, Becerra wrote the following
to President Clinton:

[I write to] add my voice to those recommending a full
evaluation of this case to determine if justice has
been achieved in the case of Mr. Vignali. . . . In the
interest of redeeming the life of a young man, I
respectfully urge you to weigh a few factors in Mr.
Vignali’s favor. Prior to Mr. Vignali’s conviction, he
had no criminal record whatsoever. Although convicted
of drug possession and the illegal sale of drug
narcotics, his parents remain highly disturbed by a
variety of factors in play at Carlos’ trial and believe
that when Carlos loaned money to a friend he
unwittingly became connected with the convicted
narcotics ring. It is my understanding that neither
drugs nor drug money was found in his possession.\123\
—————————————————————————
\123\ NARA Document Production (Letter from Xavier Becerra, Member
of Congress, U.S. House of Representatives, to President William J.
Clinton (Nov. 21, 2000)) (Exhibit 12).

After the commutation, Becerra explained his actions as
follows: “Knowing that justice is not yet blind to color in
America and with time running out for the review of the Vignali
case, I added my voice to that of other community leaders . . .
asking for a review of the case.” \124\
—————————————————————————
\124\ Mateo Gold and Larry B. Stammer, 2 City Leaders Say They
Regret Helping Dealer; Clemency: Cardinal Mahony and Politician
Villaraigosa Say They Shouldn’t Have Written on Behalf of a Cocaine
Convict They Had Never Even Met, L.A. Times, Feb. 13, 2001, at A22.
—————————————————————————
Unlike others, Becerra has not apologized for his role in the Vignali case. Rather, he has steadfastly maintained that he did nothing wrong and did not even explicitly support Vignali’s clemency grant. Becerra stated that he wrote the letters to urge the White House to make sure that justice had been served in the Vignali case.\125\ He has said that he never specifically asked President Clinton to commute Carlos Vignali’s sentence, despite the fact that he wrote about the case and even called the White House on January 19, 2001, to
see where the case stood.\126\

—————————————————————————
\125\ Richard Serrano and Stephen Braun, Working the System, L.A.
Times, Apr. 29, 2001, at A1.
\126\ Id. Congressman Becerra’s position should be contrasted with
that of former Associate White House Counsel Meredith Cabe, who
characterized the congressman’s involvement as “advocacy.” Interview
with Meredith Cabe, former Associate Counsel to the President, the
White House (Mar. 16, 2001).
—————————————————————————
ii. Congressman Esteban Torres
In addition to his 1996 letters to the Justice Department
and the warden of Vignali’s prison, Congressman Torres wrote to
the White House in support of Vignali’s clemency request. In an
August 4, 1998, letter, Torres requested President Clinton’s
“careful review and immediate consideration of approval of his
petition.” \127\ It is unclear why Torres wrote on Vignali’s
behalf.
—————————————————————————
\127\ NARA Document Production (Letter from Esteban E. Torres,
Member of Congress, U.S. House of Representatives, to President William
J. Clinton (Aug. 4, 1998)) (Exhibit 13).
—————————————————————————
Congressman Torres’ son-in-law, James Casso, apparently
became aware of the Vignali case while working as Congressman
Torres’ district director. More importantly, after Congressman
Torres’ retirement in 1999, Casso went into private practice as
an attorney and apparently maintained his contacts with the
Vignalis. In that capacity, Casso apparently played a
significant role in introducing the Vignalis to Hugh Rodham.
Unfortunately, Casso has declined to be interviewed by the
Committee about this matter.
iii. State Senator Richard Polanco
State Senator Richard Polanco, who wrote to the White House
“Pardon Secretary” in 1996, wrote to the President once again
in 2000, specifically requesting a presidential grant of
clemency for Vignali. Polanco, who received $20,000 in
political contributions from Horacio Vignali throughout his
career,\128\ sent his letter to the White House on December 6,
2000. At the time, Polanco was the Chair of the Latino
Legislative Caucus and purported to write on behalf of the
Caucus:
—————————————————————————
\128\ Antonio Olivo and Tina Daunt, Speculation Swirls over Polanco
Exit from Race, L.A. Times, Mar. 11, 2001, at B1.

The Caucus respectfully requests you commute Mr.
Vignali’s sentence and that he be released immediately.
We believe that Mr. Vignali was convicted despite the
fact that the criminal investigation did not reveal any
guns, drugs, or illegal money in Mr. Vignali’s
possession. Mr. Vignali was a 22-year-old investor and
did not have any contacts demonstrating his involvement
—————————————————————————
in the sale or purchase of drugs.

* * *

Given the facts of the case and Mr. Vignali’s conduct
during incarceration, the Caucus has investigated the
impact of Mr. Vignali’s release. We are convinced that
Mr. Vignali will return to his family in southern
California. Mr. Vignali’s family is a loving, embracing
family and is committed to supporting him.\129\
—————————————————————————
\129\ NARA Document Production (Letter from Senator Richard G.
Polanco, Senate Majority Leader, California State Senate, to President
William J. Clinton (Dec. 6, 2000)) (Exhibit 16).

It is not clear whether Polanco obtained the approval of
all 23 members of the California Latino Legislative Caucus
before he wrote the President on their behalf. However, it is
clear that Senator Polanco spread misleading information about
Carlos Vignali in his letter. Rather than being an investor in
a legitimate business enterprise, as suggested by Polanco,
Vignali was convicted by a jury of providing large amounts of
cocaine for distribution. His conviction was upheld by an
appellate court. As for the lack of contacts demonstrating his
involvement in the sale of drugs, as claimed by Polanco,
Vignali’s own words, captured on government wiretaps, show that
he was part of a cocaine distribution conspiracy. Also of
interest is Senator Polanco’s claim that the Latino caucus had
“investigated” the impact of Vignali’s release. Polanco has
not made it clear what steps he took to investigate the impact
of the commutation. Given the inaccuracies in Polanco’s letter,
the Caucus’ investigation appears to have been incomplete or,
more likely, nonexistent.
iv. Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria
Molina
Unlike many other individuals who supported Vignali’s bid
for clemency, Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina did
not receive political contributions from Horacio Vignali.
Rather, she came to know Horacio Vignali through her husband,
Ron Martinez, a Los Angeles affirmative action consultant.\130\
After receiving a “constant barrage of requests” from Horacio
to support his son’s bid for clemency, Molina agreed to write
such a letter.\131\ In her December 20, 2000, letter, Molina
stated the following:
—————————————————————————
\130\ Ted Rohrlich, et. al, Molina, Hertzberg Wrote Letters for
Convict’s Pardon, L.A. Times, Feb. 16, 2001, at B1.
\131\ Id.

While I usually do not write letters in support of
individuals I do not know personally, I am making this
request because I do know Mr. Vignali’s family and have
reviewed his case carefully. What I have learned is
that Mr. Vignali is a young man who made a mistake in
his life and is immensely remorseful and has
demonstrated a genuine interest to re-join the
community.” \132\
—————————————————————————
\132\ NARA Document Production (Letter from Gloria Molina,
Supervisor, 1st District, Board of Supervisors, County of Los Angeles,
to President William J. Clinton (Dec. 20, 2001)) (Exhibit 18) (cover
sheet reflecting transmission from Rodham to Lindsey, attached).

Molina also noted Vignali’s good record in prison, where he
excelled in his work details and received a GED.\133\ It is
unclear how Molina came to the understanding that Carlos
Vignali was “immensely remorseful” for his actions. To the
contrary, Carlos and Horacio Vignali have steadily maintained
Carlos’ innocence ever since his arrest in 1994, and Carlos, to
date, has never cooperated with authorities by revealing the
identities of his narcotics sources.
—————————————————————————
\133\ Id.
—————————————————————————
Molina’s ignorance of the most basic aspect of the Vignali
case–whether Vignali claimed to be innocent or guilty of the
charges–seriously undermines her claim to have “reviewed his
case carefully.” It has also been reported that Molina shared
her draft letter of support with Horacio Vignali before it was
provided to the White House.\134\ Therefore, Horacio Vignali
was aware of the inaccuracies in the letter and still allowed
it to be presented to the White House. While Molina told
Horacio Vignali that her letter “probably would do no good,”
\135\ it was provided to Bruce Lindsey the day after it was
written. Hugh Rodham faxed the Molina letter to Dawn Woollen,
Bruce Lindsey’s assistant, on December 21, 2000, with a
notation stating, “Dawn, enclosed please find a copy of the
letter we discussed.” \136\
—————————————————————————
\134\ Richard Serrano and Stephen Braun, Clinton Brother-in-Law Was
Paid $400,000 to Help Win Clemencies, L.A. Times, Feb. 22, 2001, at A1.
\135\ Ted Rohrlich, et. al, Molina, Hertzberg Wrote Letters for
Convict’s Pardon, L.A. Times, Feb. 16, 2001, at B1.
\136\ NARA Document Production (Fax Cover Sheet, Dec. 21, 2000)
(Exhibit 18) (all capitalization omitted).
—————————————————————————
Molina has not explicitly renounced her representations in
the Vignali case. She has, however, said that she will not
write any more letters like her Vignali letter because
prosecutors and judges know the facts better than political
figures like herself.\137\
—————————————————————————
\137\ Rene Sanchez, Powerful Supporters Retreat on Pardon, Wash.
Post, Feb. 24, 2001, at A6.
—————————————————————————
v. Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike
Hernandez
Horacio Vignali cultivated a close relationship with Los
Angeles City Councilmember Mike Hernandez, beginning with
Hernandez’s 1993 campaign, to which Vignali contributed $2,500.
Vignali also hosted a day-long retreat at his estate for
Hernandez and his staff. On December 4, 2000, Hernandez wrote
to the President, asking him to “strongly consider commuting
the sentence of Carlos A. Vignali[,] Jr.” \138\ Hernandez
argued, “Although convicted, you will hopefully note, that no
evidence was presented that Mr. Vignali had any involvement
with illegal narcotics prior to the last three months leading
up to his arrest.” \139\ Hernandez also noted Vignali’s
accomplishments in prison, including receiving his GED and
being named the prison’s “Student of the Year.” \140\
—————————————————————————
\138\ NARA Document Production (Letter from Michael Hernandez,
Councilman, First Council District, City of Los Angeles, to President
William J. Clinton (Dec. 4, 2000)) (Exhibit 17).
\139\ Id.
\140\ Id.
—————————————————————————
Hernandez’s arguments were completely irrelevant as to
Vignali’s suitability for a commutation. Even assuming
Hernandez was correct that Vignali was a large-scale drug
dealer for only three months, that hardly seems to be a
powerful argument in favor of executive clemency. Moreover,
Carlos Vignali was suspected by law enforcement authorities of
trafficking narcotics well before he was actually
arrested.\141\
—————————————————————————
\141\ See infra, section 4.a, California Law Enforcement and
Political Officials Supported Vignali’s Clemency Petition Despite
Serious Allegations Against Horacio and Carlos Vignali–There Were
Extensive Allegations of Drug Trafficking Against Horacio Vignali and
Carlos Vignali.
—————————————————————————
The extent to which the White House relied on Hernandez’s
letter is unclear. It is certain, though, that Hernandez was a
questionable source for any kind of character reference,
especially one involving drug charges. In August 21, 1997,
Hernandez was arrested and charged with one felony count of
cocaine possession.\142\ He subsequently posted $10,000 bond
and checked himself into a drug-treatment hospital.\143\
Hernandez ultimately pleaded guilty and entered a drug
diversionary program, which allowed him to complete his
rehabilitation and, upon successful completion, avoid the
felony conviction.\144\
—————————————————————————
\142\ Beth Shuster, Back from the Bottom, L.A. Times Mag., Feb. 6,
2000, at 10.
\143\ Michael Fleeman, He Just Said Yes–An Interview with L.A.
City Councilman Mike Hernandez, L.A. Times Mag., Jan. 1998.
\144\ Id.
—————————————————————————
vi. Cardinal Roger Mahony
Cardinal Roger Mahony, the Archbishop of Los Angeles, also
wrote in support of Vignali. Given that the Cardinal was not a
political figure, his letter may have carried particular weight
with the White House. However, Cardinal Mahony’s December 11,
2000, letter, like those of the political figures who supported
the Vignali clemency, was misleading. Mahony stated that
“prior to [Vignali’s] conviction, he had no criminal record or
arrests.” \145\ As described above, this claim was false.
Cardinal Mahony also stated that there were “mitigating
factors” in the Vignali case, such as the fact that “neither
drugs nor drug money was found in Carlos Vignali Jr.’s
possession.” \146\ Cardinal Mahony’s recitation of these
irrelevant facts gives the impression that there was no
evidence linking Vignali to narcotics trafficking. To the
contrary, Vignali’s fellow drug dealers testified against him,
and his voice was captured on intercepted telephone
conversations, discussing the shipment of cocaine to Minnesota.
—————————————————————————
\145\ NARA Document Production (Letter from Cardinal Roger Mahony,
Archbishop of Los Angeles, to President William J. Clinton (Dec. 11,
2000)) (Exhibit 19).
\146\ Id.
—————————————————————————
The Cardinal has issued a statement accepting some
responsibility for his actions in the Vignali case. In
particular, he claimed, “The purpose of the letter was to seek
a further review of the facts, the law and the processes used
in his case. I made it clear that I was incapable of making a
judgment about his guilt or innocence.” \147\ However, the
Cardinal’s letter did no such thing and even concluded that
“the granting of clemency to Carlos Vignali, Jr. is worthy of
your consideration. His relatives, a very respected, active and
well-known Latino family, are committed to assist Carlos, Jr.
to again become a contributing member of society.” After the
public learned of Cardinal Mahony’s role in the Vignali case,
the Cardinal conceded, “Regardless of the merits of the case,
I made a serious mistake in writing to the president and I
broke my decades-long practice of never sending a letter on
behalf of any person whom I did not know personally. I
apologize for not following my own principles in this matter.”
\148\
—————————————————————————
\147\ Mateo Gold and Larry B. Stammer, 2 City Leaders Say They
Regret Helping Dealer; Clemency: Cardinal Mahony and Politician
Villaraigosa Say They Shouldn’t Have Written on Behalf of a Cocaine
Convict They Had Never Even Met, L.A. Times, Feb. 13, 2001, at A22.
\148\ Id.
—————————————————————————
b. Support from Los Angeles County Sheriff
Lee Baca
The White House has cited the support of Los Angeles County
Sheriff Lee Baca, along with the support of U.S. Attorney
Alejandro Mayorkas, as being instrumental to the President’s
decision to grant clemency to Carlos Vignali. However, Baca has
publicly claimed that he did not support the grant of clemency
for Vignali but, rather, believed that he should serve out his
sentence.\149\ Yet, when Baca’s actions in the Vignali case are
carefully examined, it is clear that he was close to Horacio
Vignali and took a number of actions that could be seen by the
White House as supporting a grant of clemency for Carlos
Vignali. In light of these facts, it is troubling that Baca has
refused to acknowledge the effect of his actions in the Vignali
matter.
—————————————————————————
\149\ Beth Shuster, Baca Admits Call, Not Advocacy on Felon’s
Clemency, L.A. Times, Feb. 23, 2001, at A1; Telephone Interview with
Leroy Baca, Sheriff, County of Los Angeles (June 22, 2001).
—————————————————————————
i. Sheriff Baca’s Relationship with the
Vignalis
Sheriff Baca met Horacio Vignali in 1991 through “Latinos
for Riordan,” a group which supported the election of Richard
Riordan as Mayor of Los Angeles.\150\ Beginning in 1993, Baca
and Horacio Vignali began having one-on-one contacts, including
lunches and other social meetings.\151\ Over the course of the
years that followed, Baca became friends with Horacio Vignali
and his wife, Luz, and even visited the Vignali home on five or
six occasions.\152\ Vignali became a major supporter of Baca.
Vignali contributed $11,000 to Baca’s campaigns for Sheriff
between 1994 and 2001.\153\ Vignali also hosted three
fundraisers for Baca at the C&H Body Shop, each of which
raised, according to Baca, between $60,000 and $70,000 for his
campaign.\154\
—————————————————————————
\150\ Telephone Interview with Leroy Baca, Sheriff, County of Los
Angeles (June 22, 2001).
\151\ Id.
\152\ Id.
\153\ Id.
\154\ Id. As described below, the C&H Body Shop was the location of
a heroin trafficking arrest and was alleged to be a location where cars
were altered to facilitate the transportation of narcotics and drug
proceeds.
—————————————————————————
Baca first learned of Carlos Vignali’s trouble with the law
through his own deputies. In 1994, detectives from his
narcotics bureau went to the C&H Body Shop to arrest Carlos
Vignali.\155\ Vignali had already been indicted in Minnesota,
and detectives had just been able to identify the person
previously known as “C-Low” on surveillance tapes as Carlos
Vignali. When the detectives went to the C&H Body Shop, Horacio
told them that Carlos Vignali was not there.\156\ After the
detectives left, Horacio called Baca to ask why the detectives
had been there and why they were looking for his son.\157\
Baca, who at the time was Chief of Field Operations for Region
II of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office,\158\ told
Horacio that he would look into the matter.\159\ Baca called
the detective who had been by the body shop and asked him why
he was looking for Carlos Vignali.\160\ The detective explained
the matter to Baca, and Baca called Horacio back and explained
that he should have his son meet with detectives at the body
shop. Baca made a point of not informing Horacio Vignali why
investigators were looking for Carlos and simply told Horacio
that he should have his son show up at the body shop to speak
to investigators.\161\ Shortly thereafter, Carlos did show up
at the body shop, and he was arrested.
—————————————————————————
\155\ Id.
\156\ Id.
\157\ Id.
\158\ Baca was elected Sheriff in November 1998, shortly after the
death of his predecessor, Sherman Block. Id.
\159\ Id.
\160\ Id.
\161\ Id.
—————————————————————————
After Carlos Vignali’s arrest, Baca’s information about the
Vignali case came from Horacio Vignali. Baca learned of Carlos’
conviction, and Horacio often mentioned his son’s plight to
Baca when they spoke.\162\ Horacio Vignali told Baca that he
believed his son was innocent and that he was spending
significant sums in legal fees to appeal the conviction. Baca
claims that he consistently believed that Carlos Vignali was
guilty of the charges against him. He even claims to have had a
heated discussion with Horacio Vignali where he told him that
he believed that Carlos was guilty and responsible for his own
predicament.\163\
—————————————————————————
\162\ Id.
\163\ Id.
—————————————————————————
Despite Sheriff Baca’s apparent lack of sympathy for
Carlos’ situation, Horacio Vignali continued to mention Carlos
to Baca. In 1996, Horacio informed Baca that, because he was
afraid of flying, he was having difficulty visiting his son in
prison in Colorado.\164\ He asked for Baca’s help in having
Carlos moved to a prison closer to the Vignali’s home in Los
Angeles. On November 1, 1996, Baca wrote a letter to Vignali’s
probation officer. In that letter, Baca argued that more
frequent contact between the Vignali family and Carlos would
help the family and Carlos deal with his imprisonment. Baca
also referred to Horacio Vignali’s “cooperation” with the
Sheriff’s Department:
—————————————————————————
\164\ Id.

Mr. Vignali, a highly respected businessman, cooperated
with the initial investigation that enabled Sheriff’s
Department investigators to arrest his son for the
offenses he was convicted of. This level of cooperation
is rare and it reflects very highly on Mr. Vignali’s
integrity. That is why I am writing this letter.\165\
—————————————————————————
\165\ Justice Department Document Production Mayorkas 00014 (Letter
from Leroy Baca, Sheriff, County of Los Angeles, to Joan L. White, U.S.
Probation Officer (Nov. 1, 1996)) (Exhibit 20).

However, Baca’s glowing reference to Horacio’s role in Carlos’
arrest is misleading. First, Baca seems to ignore the fact that
Horacio’s first response after being contacted by Sheriff’s
Department investigators who wanted to speak to his son was to
call his friend who was a chief in the Sheriff’s Department. If
Horacio Vignali was truly trying to cooperate with law
enforcement, he would have told his son to meet with
investigators rather than contact his politically powerful
friend at the Sheriff’s Department. More importantly, Baca
intentionally did not tell Horacio Vignali that the Sheriff’s
Department intended to arrest Carlos. Rather, he told him only
that they wanted to speak to him. In this instance, it appears
that Sheriff Baca behaved professionally and appropriately.
However, to the extent that Baca’s letter portrays a father who
knowingly participated in arrangements to have his son
arrested, it is misleading.
ii. Sheriff Baca’s Involvement in the Vignali
Clemency Effort
In late 2000, Horacio Vignali again approached Sheriff
Baca, this time asking for his help in obtaining a grant of
clemency for Carlos. Horacio asked Baca to write a letter to
the President in support of the grant of clemency.\166\ Baca
recalls that Horacio showed him other letters of support he had
obtained, including one from Representative Becerra.\167\
Horacio also mentioned that Hugh Rodham was helping him obtain
a grant of clemency.\168\ However, Baca declined to write any
letter in support of Carlos Vignali’s request for a
commutation.\169\ Baca informed Committee staff that he told
Horacio that his son was guilty and would not receive the
commutation that he wanted.\170\ Baca believes that Horacio was
upset by his refusal to write a letter regarding the
commutation request.\171\ After Baca had spoken with Horacio
Vignali, he began to reconsider his refusal to write a letter
and decided that he could write a general letter in support of
Horacio Vignali.\172\ He drafted such a letter, signed it, and
gave the original to Horacio Vignali.\173\ The letter drafted
by Baca did make a number of strong statements in support of
Horacio Vignali, but it did not mention Carlos at all:
—————————————————————————
\166\ Telephone Interview with Leroy Baca, Sheriff, County of Los
Angeles (June 22, 2001).
\167\ Id.
\168\ Id.
\169\ Id.
\170\ Id.
\171\ Id.
\172\ Id.
\173\ Id.

This letter will confirm my support for Mr. Carlos
Vignali, Sr., as a man of the highest integrity and
trustworthiness. I have known Mr. Vignali for many
years and have witnessed his consistent support of law
enforcement and especially the policing effort of the
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. . . . I am
confident that Mr. Vignali will fulfill any commitment
he makes regarding any matter entrusted to him.\174\
—————————————————————————
\174\ NARA Document Production (Letter from Leroy Baca, Sheriff,
County of Los Angeles, to President William J. Clinton (Dec. 8, 2000))
(Exhibit 21).

After Horacio read the letter, he told Baca he did not believe
he could use the letter because it did not help his son.\175\
Indeed, Baca believes his letter was never forwarded to the
White House by Vignali.\176\
—————————————————————————
\175\ Telephone Interview with Leroy Baca, Sheriff, County of Los
Angeles (June 22, 2001).
\176\ Id.
—————————————————————————
After giving his letter to Horacio Vignali, Sheriff Baca
did not have any further involvement with the Vignali matter
until he received a phone call from Hugh Rodham in early
January 2001.\177\ Baca received a message from Rodham and
called the number Rodham left, which turned out to be the
number for the White House switchboard.\178\ Baca was then
connected with Rodham.\179\ Rodham told Baca that he was
working for Horacio Vignali and that Baca would be receiving a
telephone call from the White House Counsel’s Office regarding
“Vignali, Sr.” \180\ Baca claims he told Rodham he had
nothing to say about Carlos Vignali and believed Carlos
deserved whatever he got.\181\ But, Baca indicated he would
discuss Horacio Vignali with the Counsel’s Office.\182\
—————————————————————————
\177\ Id.
\178\ Id.
\179\ Id.
\180\ Id.
\181\ Id.
\182\ Id.

Several days after Rodham’s telephone call, Baca received a
message from someone else at the White House.\183\ Baca
returned the call to the man who had left the message, but,
when he asked for that person, he was transferred to a woman
who identified herself as an assistant of the man whom Baca
sought.\184\ It appears this woman was Dawn Woollen, assistant
to Deputy White House Counsel Bruce Lindsey.\185\ Woollen asked
Baca what he could tell her about Horacio Vignali.\186\ Baca
told Woollen “nice things” about Horacio Vignali,
particularly, that he was deeply devoted to his family and very
disturbed by his son’s imprisonment.\187\ Woollen then asked
Baca whether President Clinton should commute Carlos Vignali’s
prison sentence.\188\ According to Baca, he answered that he
was not familiar with the facts of the case and that it was the
President’s decision to make.\189\ Woollen’s recollection of
the call is significantly different. She remembers that Baca
“expressed support for the Vignali commutation” but that he
was uncomfortable writing a letter in support of Vignali.\190\
According to Baca, he had no further involvement in the Vignali
case after his conversation with Woollen.\191\
—————————————————————————
\183\ Id.
\184\ Id.
\185\ Interview with Dawn Woollen, Administrative Assistant to
Deputy White House Counsel Bruce Lindsey, the White House (Sept. 25,
2001).
\186\ Telephone Interview with Leroy Baca, Sheriff, County of Los
Angeles (June 22, 2001).
\187\ Id.
\188\ Id.
\189\ Id.
\190\ Interview with Dawn Woollen, Administrative Assistant to
Deputy White House Counsel Bruce Lindsey, the White House (Sept. 25,
2001).
\191\ Id.
—————————————————————————
iii. Conclusion
Sheriff Baca has maintained that he never supported a grant
of clemency for Carlos Vignali. Rather, Baca claims that he was
opposed to the commutation. After the pardon was granted, he
even made a public statement that “I maintain and espouse a
policy that those persons convicted of a crime should serve
their full and complete sentence.” \192\ Moreover, Sheriff
Baca has taken the position that it was not reasonable for the
White House to interpret his call as conveying support for the
commutation of Carlos Vignali’s sentence.\193\ However, if the
account of Dawn Woollen, the assistant to Deputy White House
Counsel Bruce Lindsey, is accurate, Sheriff Baca’s position is
disingenuous. In addition, Sheriff Baca took a number of
discrete actions that assisted the effort to get Carlos Vignali
out of prison. As such, the White House was justified in
believing that Baca supported a grant of clemency for Vignali.
—————————————————————————
\192\ Beth Shuster, Baca Admits Call, Not Advocacy on Felon’s
Clemency, L.A. Times, Feb. 23, 2001 at A1.
\193\ Telephone Interview with Leroy Baca, Sheriff, County of Los
Angeles (June 22, 2001).
—————————————————————————
Baca knew or should have known that his actions would
assist the effort to get Carlos Vignali out of prison. When
Baca wrote a letter to President Clinton vouching for Horacio
Vignali’s character, he knew that he was providing Vignali with
a letter that would be used to get Carlos Vignali out of
prison. When he agreed to speak with White House staff about
Horacio Vignali, he knew the only reason the White House wanted
to know about Horacio Vignali was that they were considering a
grant of clemency for Carlos Vignali. It is difficult to
conceive what Sheriff Baca thought he was doing if not
assisting in the effort to get Carlos Vignali out of prison.
Indeed, the White House interpreted Baca’s call as supporting a
grant of clemency to Carlos Vignali. It appears that Sheriff
Baca’s support for Vignali, together with that of U.S. Attorney
Alejandro Mayorkas (as described below), was instrumental to
the White House decision to grant clemency. At a Committee
hearing, Deputy White House Counsel Bruce Lindsey stated that
“the Los Angeles sheriff indicated he supported a
commutation.” Lindsey also stated that:

I originally was probably negative. After the call from
the . . . sheriff of Los Angeles and our office reached
out to the U.S. attorney in Central District of
California and Los Angeles, I decided that given the
community support and their position that into the
county in which he would go to live, that they would be
aware of the crime situation, if you will, in their
community, and if they were not concerned about him
coming back to their community, that I thought it was
an appropriate commutation.\194\
—————————————————————————
\194\ “The Controversial Pardon of International Fugitive Marc
Rich,” Hearings Before the Comm. on Govt. Reform, 107th Congress 387,
426 (Mar. 1, 2001).

Sheriff Baca has been careful to point out that in none of
his calls or letters did he expressly advocate support for a
grant of clemency for Carlos Vignali. Nonetheless, it is likely
that the careful language in the Sheriff’s letters resulted
from his own desire to avoid creating evidence that he
supported the commutation rather than from any lack of desire
to help the Vignali family. Indeed, an internal White House
note confirms this view. The note indicates that Hugh Rodham
told Dawn Woollen that “Sheriff Baca from LA is more than
happy to speak with you about [Vignali] but is uncomfortable
writing a letter offering his full support.” \195\ This note
supports the conclusion that Sheriff Baca’s actions had the
effect of assisting Horacio Vignali’s effort to get his son out
of prison but did not want to create a paper trail showing that
he helped a convicted cocaine dealer get out of prison.
—————————————————————————
\195\ NARA Document Production (Note from Dawn Woollen, Secretary
to Deputy White House Counsel Bruce Lindsey, the White House, to Bruce
Lindsey, Deputy White House Counsel, the White House) (Exhibit 22)
(NARA cover sheet, reflecting that document came from Lindsey’s file,
attached).
—————————————————————————
The most troubling aspect of Sheriff Baca’s involvement is
his continued claims that he was opposed to the Vignali
commutation. In his public statements since the commutation and
his interview with Committee staff, Baca maintained that
Vignali was guilty and should not have had his sentence
commuted. Moreover, Sheriff Baca believes there was nothing
inappropriate about his role in the Vignali matter. However,
when Sheriff Baca was asked squarely by the White House
Counsel’s Office whether the President should commute Vignali’s
sentence, he said he was not familiar with the facts of the
case and it was a decision that only the President could make.
If Baca believed Vignali was guilty, as he claims to have, and
was opposed to a commutation, he should have shared his views
with the White House. It is troubling that Sheriff Baca would
make self-serving statements to the Committee and the press
that he was opposed to the commutation yet refused to express
meaningful opposition when given the opportunity.
Sheriff Baca’s actions, which are troubling enough when
viewed in isolation, are even more troubling when considered in
light of two additional facts. First, Horacio Vignali was a
major financial supporter of Baca’s campaign, contributing
$11,000 and raising tens of thousands of dollars more. Second,
as discussed below, law enforcement knew of numerous
allegations that Horacio Vignali himself was involved in
trafficking cocaine. Thus, the top law enforcement officer in
Los Angeles County supported a grant of clemency for a cocaine
trafficker, the son of a major financial supporter and alleged
narcotics trafficker. Sheriff Baca’s involvement in the Vignali
matter was inexcusable, especially for a law enforcement
officer.

c. Support from U.S. Attorney Alejandro Mayorkas
As described below, the government attorneys who actually convicted Vignali vehemently opposed the Vignali commutation.

In the face of this opposition, the intervention of Los
Angeles-area U.S. Attorney Alejandro Mayorkas is particularly troubling. According to President Clinton’s Deputy Counsel, Bruce Lindsey, the White House Counsel’s Office “reached out” to Mayorkas regarding Vignali’s clemency petition.\196\ Why the White House reached out to Mayorkas–who had no role in prosecuting Vignali in Minneapolis–rather than to the federal prosecutors who convicted Vignali is far from clear. Equally unclear and of greater concern is why the White House gave
greater weight to Mayorkas’ position than it did to the
strenuous objections of the U.S. Attorney’s Office that
actually convicted Vignali and the Pardon Attorney’s negative recommendation.

—————————————————————————
\196\ “The Controversial Pardon of International Fugitive Marc
Rich,” Hearings Before the Comm. on Govt. Reform, 107th Congress 426
(Mar. 1, 2001).
—————————————————————————
i. Mayorkas’ Initial Exposure to the Vignali
Matter
Sometime in the first quarter of 1999, Mayorkas received a call from Representative Xavier Becerra.\197\ During that conversation, Becerra informed Mayorkas that he had received information regarding an appeal of Carlos Vignali’s conviction.\198\ Becerra sent Mayorkas a copy of the brief and asked him to look into the matter.\199\ Becerra attached to the brief a few letters submitted by various community leaders in support of Carlos Vignali’s case.\200\ Because some of those letters were addressed to a “Pardon Secretary,” Mayorkas believes he assumed Carlos Vignali was seeking clemency.\201\
—————————————————————————
\197\ Telephone Interview with Alejandro Mayorkas, former U.S.
Attorney for the Central District of California, Department of Justice
(June 15, 2001).
\198\ Id.
\199\ Id. Mayorkas did not read the brief. After he received it, he
put it in a file.
\200\ Id.
\201\ Id.
—————————————————————————According to Mayorkas, he treated Congressman Becerra’s
call as he did other inquiries from congressmen, which he received frequently.\202\ In this case, he consulted Minnesota U.S. Attorney Todd Jones, whose office tried the original case against Vignali.\203\ In fact, Mayorkas called Jones twice.\204\ In the first call, which occurred shortly after the inquiry from Representative Becerra, Mayorkas called Jones to
obtain information on the status of Carlos Vignali’s case.\205\

In response, Jones told Mayorkas that Carlos Vignali was “a major player” in drug trafficking.\206\ Jones told Mayorkas, “don’t go there,” when it came to Vignali–he was “bad news.” \207\ Jones also told Mayorkas he should call Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Dunne for further details regarding the case.\208\ Mayorkas noted that he might have asked Jones during
the call if his office was interested in receiving Carlos Vignali’s cooperation, but he does not specifically recall.\209\ Mayorkas relayed what he learned back to Congressman Becerra
.\210\
—————————————————————————
\202\ Id.
\203\ Id. Telephone Interview with Todd Jones, U.S. Attorney for
the District of Minnesota, Department of Justice (May 2, 2001); Power
of Words from High Places, L.A. Times, Feb. 14, 2001, at B10; Richard
A. Serrano and Stephen Braun, U.S. Attorney Pursued Clemency Case, L.A.
Times, Feb. 13, 2001, at A1. Jones believed that Mayorkas received
inquiries from Horacio Vignali and was reaching out to Jones to look
into Vignali’s case. Telephone Interview with Todd Jones, U.S. Attorney
for the District of Minnesota, Department of Justice (May 2, 2001).
Specifically, Jones opined, “Why [was Mayorkas calling him]? Because
the old man was calling him. Horacio was contacting [Mayorkas] and his
U.S. Attorney’s Office seeking support for a commutation.” Richard A.
Serrano and Stephen Braun, U.S. Attorney Pursued Clemency Case, L.A.
Times, Feb. 13, 2001, at A1.
\204\ Id. Telephone Interview with Todd Jones, U.S. Attorney for
the District of Minnesota, Department of Justice (May 2, 2001); Power
of Words from High Places, L.A. Times, Feb. 14, 2001, at B10; Richard
A. Serrano and Stephen Braun, U.S. Attorney Pursued Clemency Case, L.A.
Times, Feb. 13, 2001 at A1.
\205\ Telephone Interview with Alejandro Mayorkas, former U.S.
Attorney for the Central District of California, Department of Justice
(June 15, 2001); Telephone Interview with Todd Jones, U.S. Attorney for
the District of Minnesota, Department of Justice (May 2, 2001) (Jones
noting that December 2, 1999, is the likely date); Richard A. Serrano
and Stephen Braun, U.S. Attorney Pursued Clemency Case, L.A. Times,
Feb. 13, 2001 at A1.
\206\ Telephone Interview with Todd Jones, U.S. Attorney for the
District of Minnesota, Department of Justice (May 2, 2000).
\207\ Id. In an Interview with Committee staff, Mayorkas denies having been told this. Also, Jones recalls that, during their discussion, Mayorkas referred to Horacio Vignali as a “player in the community in Los Angeles, a pillar in the community.” Richard A.
Serrano and Stephen Braun, U.S. Attorney Pursued Clemency Case, L.A.
Times, Feb. 13, 2001, at A1. See also Telephone Interview with Todd
Jones, U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota, Department of
Justice (May 2, 2001) (describing that Mayorkas also told Jones that
Horacio Vignali was “a big guy in the community”). Mayorkas sternly
denies ever having told Jones that Horacio Vignali was a pillar–or
player–in the community. Telephone Interview with Alejandro Mayorkas,
former U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, Department
of Justice (June 15, 2001). According to Mayorkas, he just does not
talk like that.
\208\ Telephone Interview with Todd Jones, U.S. Attorney for the
District of Minnesota, Department of Justice (May 2, 2001). Telephone
Interview with Alejandro Mayorkas, former U.S. Attorney for the Central
District of California, Department of Justice (June 15, 2001) (Mayorkas
stating that he recalls having been referred to a line attorney as well
as the general fact of their conversation but cannot specifically
recall what was discussed).
\209\ Id.
\210\ Id.
—————————————————————————
Jones also referred Mayorkas to a line attorney who handled the case for specifics regarding Carlos Vignali’s conviction.\211\ As described below, that line attorney was probably Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Dunne, who tried the government’s case with former Assistant U.S. Attorney Denise Reilly. Jones believes that Mayorkas may have followed up with
Dunne. Mayorkas cannot recall whether he spoke with Dunne but believed that such a conversation may have taken place. Unfortunately, the Committee was unable to interview Dunne to confirm the conversation because of objections from the Department of Justice. However, if such a conversation took place, Mayorkas would have likely gained even more specific information regarding the scope of Vignali’s criminal activity.
—————————————————————————
\211\ Id. Telephone Interview with Todd Jones, U.S. Attorney for
the District of Minnesota, Department of Justice (May 2, 2001) (Jones
noting that he referred Mayorkas to Dunne “for the gory details”).
————————————————————————-After looking into the Vignali case for Representative Becerra, Mayorkas actually met Horacio Vignali for the first time. Over the next two years, Mayorkas would see Horacio Vignali at various community events and at several one-on-one
meetings with Vignali. When Mayorkas saw Horacio Vignali, Vignali would usually mention his son’s case and tell Mayorkas how much anguish he was suffering as a result of his son’s imprisonment. Sometime early in 1999, Horacio Vignali spoke to Mayorkas about executive clemency.\212\ Mayorkas told Horacio the only way he knew that Carlos’ sentence could be reduced was
for him to cooperate with law enforcement and receive a
reduction of his sentence under Federal Rule of Criminal
Procedure 35.\213\ Mayorkas does not recall Horacio Vignali’s response to that comment
.\214\
—————————————————————————
\212\ Telephone Interview with Alejandro Mayorkas, former U.S.
Attorney for the Central District of California, Department of Justice
(June 15, 2001).
\213\ Id.
\214\ Id.
—————————————————————————
ii. Mayorkas Calls the White House
In early January of 2001, Horacio Vignali called Mayorkas
and, noting that a petition for the commutation of his son’s
sentence was pending, asked Mayorkas if he would call the White
House.\215\ During that conversation, Horacio Vignali stated
that other individuals, including Sheriff Baca and Archbishop
Mahoney, had made similar communications.\216\ After Horacio
Vignali’s call, Mayorkas called the Justice Department to see
if it was proper for him to contact the White House regarding a
clemency matter in which he did not have a prosecutorial
role.\217\ The Justice Department referred Mayorkas to the
Office of the Pardon Attorney.\218\ Mayorkas spoke to an
unidentified female lawyer at the Pardon Attorney’s Office and
asked if it was permissible for him to make a call to the White
House regarding clemency.\219\ Mayorkas recalls telling the
attorney that: (1) the case he intended to weigh in on was not
in his jurisdiction; (2) he did not know the defendant but knew
the parents; and (3) he intended only to speak to the integrity
of the parents.\220\ According to Mayorkas, the Office of the
Pardon Attorney permitted him to call the White House.\221\
Mayorkas noted that the attorney with whom he spoke did not
express the slightest reservation about his intention to call
the White House.\222\
—————————————————————————
\215\ Id.
\216\ Id.
\217\ Id.
\218\ Id.
\219\ Id.
\220\ Id.
\221\ Id.
\222\ Id.
—————————————————————————
Before calling the White House, Mayorkas called Minnesota
U.S. Attorney Todd Jones and informed him of his intention to
weigh in with the White House.\223\ Indeed, Jones also recalls
that Mayorkas initiated a second contact with him regarding the
Carlos Vignali matter and specifically asked him how he came
out on Vignali’s clemency request.\224\ Jones told Mayorkas that he opposed commutation of Vignali’s sentence.\225\ He did
not recall whether Mayorkas indicated an intent to weigh in
with the White House but noted that the conversation was very
brief.\226\ Jones was troubled by Mayorkas’ inquiries about the Vignali case and his subsequent lobbying on behalf of Vignali, believing that only the U.S. Attorney who prosecuted the case should have been involved in recommending a grant of clemency and that, if a prosecutor was not so involved, he should “stay
the hell away from it.” \227\ Jones remarked that if the roles were reversed, he would never have weighed in on the Vignali case
.\228\
—————————————————————————
\223\ Id.
\224\ Telephone Interview with Todd Jones, U.S. Attorney for the
District of Minnesota, Department of Justice (May 2, 2001). See also
Richard A. Serrano and Stephen Braun, U.S. Attorney Pursued Clemency
Case, L.A. Times, Feb. 13, 2001, at A1.
\225\ Telephone Interview with Todd Jones, U.S. Attorney for the
District of Minnesota, Department of Justice (May 2, 2001); Telephone
Interview with Alejandro Mayorkas, former U.S. Attorney for the Central
District of California, Department of Justice (June 15, 2001).
\226\ Telephone Interview with Todd Jones, U.S. Attorney for the
District of Minnesota, Department of Justice (May 2, 2001); Richard A.
Serrano and Stephen Braun, U.S. Attorney Pursued Clemency Case, L.A.
Times, Feb. 13, 2001, at A1.
\227\ Telephone Interview with Todd Jones, U.S. Attorney for the
District of Minnesota, Department of Justice (May 2, 2001).
\228\ Id.
—————————————————————————
Mayorkas then called Deputy White House Counsel Bruce
Lindsey.\229\ Mayorkas believes that Horacio Vignali suggested
he call Lindsey and provided him Lindsey’s contact
information.\230\ Mayorkas’ call was returned by Associate
White House Counsels Meredith Cabe and Eric Angel.\231\
Mayorkas indicated that Horacio Vignali had asked him to make
the call.\232\ Also, according to Mayorkas, he told Cabe and
Angel that he was not familiar with the facts of the case and
did not know the defendant but knew the parents to be good
people.\233\ In that conversation, he also noted that the
federal prosecutors in Minnesota who convicted Vignali opposed
commutation of Vignali’s sentence.\234\ Mayorkas does not
recall having expressed support for Vignali’s clemency request
during that call.\235\ But, he observed that the fact of his
call conveyed support for the commutation, noting, “By virtue
of the fact of the phone call, there’s no question that I
conveyed support for the commutation.” \236\
—————————————————————————
\229\ Id.
\230\ Id.
\231\ Id. See also Telephone Interview with Meredith Cabe, former
Associate Counsel to the President, the White House (Mar. 16, 2001)
(corroborating that she and Angel spoke with Mayorkas); Interview with
Eric Angel, Associate Counsel to the President, the White House (Mar.
28, 2001) (corroborating that he and Cabe spoke with Mayorkas).
\232\ Telephone Interview with Alejandro Mayorkas, former U.S.
Attorney for the Central District of California, Department of Justice
(June 15, 2001).
\233\ Id.
\234\ Id.
\235\ Id.
\236\ Id.
—————————————————————————
Mayorkas’ belief, in hindsight, that his call to the White
House conveyed support for Vignali’s clemency request was
correct. Statements of various staff members at the White House
involved in the clemency process indicated that they thought
that Mayorkas supported the commutation. Chief of Staff John
Podesta plainly believed that Mayorkas actually supported
commutation of Vignali’s sentence.\237\ Also, in testimony
before the Committee, Deputy White House Counsel Bruce Lindsey
stated that Mayorkas, “while saying he didn’t know much about
the facts, felt like that the family was a good environment for
which [sic] Mr. Vignali would get the proper supervision.”
\238\ Associate White House Counsel Meredith Cabe likewise
confirmed that Mayorkas supported Vignali’s petition, said he
thought well of the Vignali family, and believed that the
family would support Vignali after his release.\239\ According
to Cabe, Mayorkas explained his views in the Vignali case by
asserting that most drug sentences were disproportionate.\240\
—————————————————————————
\237\ Richard Serrano, L.A. Leaders’ Support Cited in Decision to
Free Vignali, L.A. Times, Feb. 19, 2001, at A1.
\238\ “The Controversial Pardon of International Fugitive Marc
Rich,” Hearings Before the Comm. on Govt. Reform, 107th Congress 387
(Mar. 1, 2001).
\239\ Interview with Meredith Cabe, former Associate Counsel to the
President, the White House (Mar. 16, 2001); Interview with Eric Angel,
former Associate Counsel to the President, the White House (Mar. 28,
2001).
\240\ Interview with Meredith Cabe, former Associate Counsel to the
President, the White House (Mar. 16, 2001); Interview with Eric Angel,
former Associate Counsel to the President, the White House (Mar. 28,
2001). Mayorkas strenuously denies having said this. Telephone
Interview with Alejandro Mayorkas, former U.S. Attorney for the Central
District of California, Department of Justice (June 15, 2001).
According to Mayorkas, he was never in a position to opine about the
appropriateness of Vignali’s sentence. And, if he was asked whether he
holds that position now, the answer would be “no.” And, if one were
to ask whether he espoused that position then, his answer would be
“no.” According to Mayorkas, “Some sentences are too lenient. Others
are too harsh.” But, regarding the term “disproportionate” as
relating to Vignali’s sentence, Mayorkas stated that he “never talked
like that.”
—————————————————————————
iii. Conclusion
Alejandro Mayorkas acted inappropriately in supporting the commutation of Carlos Vignali’s sentence. Mayorkas made three major mistakes in the Vignali matter. First, Mayorkas should have realized that by calling the White House regarding Horacio Vignali, he was conveying support for the commutation of Carlos Vignali’s sentence. Mayorkas now understands that his call had
such an effect, but there is no reason that Mayorkas should not have understood this simple fact when he called. Mayorkas understood that the White House was considering the commutation of Vignali’s sentence. He knew that the only reason the White House wanted to hear from him was so that it could evaluate whether to grant the commutation. Therefore, when he provided a
positive character reference for Horacio Vignali, he should have known it would have a positive effect on Carlos Vignali’s commutation petition.

Second, just as Mayorkas should have known the effect of
his actions, he should have known he was weighing in on a matter about which he knew very little. Mayorkas was aware that the prosecutor responsible for the Vignali case, Todd Jones, was against the commutation. In fact, he pointed this fact out to White House staff during his conversation with them.

However, Mayorkas should have also known that, as a U.S.
Attorney, he was providing confusing signals to the White House. He should have realized he was abusing his office by providing a character reference in a clemency case in which his office had no involvement.

Finally, Mayorkas did not know Horacio Vignali well enough to offer a character reference. Mayorkas’ relationship with Horacio Vignali consisted of seeing Vignali at various community events and only two or three one-on-one meetings for dinner or drinks. Mayorkas now concedes that he did not know Vignali well enough to call the White House and provide a
character reference. But, Mayorkas’ concession raises questions as to why he made the call at all
. Three possibilities are apparent: first, that Mayorkas is simply an overly compassionate person who provided help when he should not have; second, that he wanted to help a well-connected, wealthy, and politically powerful businessman; and third, that he felt
pressure to help Vignali because so many other Los Angeles political figures were helping him. Most likely, Mayorkas assisted Vignali out of a combination of all three of these factors.

However, of all of the people who were involved in helping Carlos Vignali, Mayorkas appears to have most clearly accepted responsibility and apologized for his actions. After his involvement in the Vignali matter came to light, Mayorkas explained to his staff:

I called the White House counsel’s office and informed
the office that I was not familiar with the facts of
the case, that the prosecuting U.S. attorney was
against the commutation, and that I was calling because
I knew the parents to be upstanding people. I
understand that my telephone call conveyed support for
the commutation. In hindsight, it was a mistake for me
to place that call [to the White House] and I am sorry
that I did so. I allowed my compassion for the parents
to interfere with my judgment.” \241\
—————————————————————————
\241\ U.S. Attorney Apologizes for Role in Vignali Pardon, City
News Service, Feb. 23, 2001.

In addition, the responsibility for the Vignali commutation
cannot be pinned entirely on Mayorkas, as some White House
staff have attempted to do. In various settings, White House
staff have pointed to the involvement of Mayorkas, along with
Sheriff Baca, as being central to the President’s
decisionmaking. Deputy White House Counsel Bruce Lindsey
testified that he changed his mind regarding the Vignali matter
after the White House heard from Baca and Mayorkas. Associate
White House Counsel Meredith Cabe stated that Mayorkas’ opinion
was “significant” because “very few prosecutors advocate
clemency in any form.” But, the White House was not justified
in relying on the support offered by Baca or Mayorkas to any
determinative extent. While they both made statements that
amounted to support for Horacio Vignali, and as such, support
for the commutation, they both also made it clear that they
knew little about the case against Carlos Vignali. It appears
that the White House was looking for reasons justifying
commutation and as such used the support of Mayorkas and Baca
as a fig leaf to rationalize its decision.
4. California Law Enforcement and Political Officials
Supported Vignali’s Clemency Petition Despite
Serious Allegations Against Horacio and Carlos
Vignali
a. There Were Extensive Allegations of Drug
Trafficking Against Both Horacio and Carlos
Vignali
The Committee has learned of numerous allegations made to
law enforcement as long as twenty-five years ago that Horacio
Vignali was involved in cocaine trafficking and other illegal
activity. The Committee has also discovered other allegations
that Carlos Vignali was involved in drug sales even more
extensive than those for which he was prosecuted in Minnesota.
Although the information the Committee obtained consists solely
of allegations against Horacio and Carlos Vignali, it is
extremely significant. These reports allege long-term criminal
activity on the part of Horacio Vignali, in particular, that
Horacio Vignali was involved in the cocaine trade and was the
source of supply for his son. Despite the availability of these
reports to Sheriff Baca and U.S. Attorney Mayorkas, both chose
not to exercise any due diligence before supporting Vignali’s
clemency plea. Although the White House and the Justice
Department also had access to these reports, it apparently did
not consider them. Even though these serious allegations have
not been proven, the mere fact of their existence–without
additional information–should have ruled out the possibility
of executive clemency for Carlos Vignali. Instead, these
reports were never considered.
While the extensive DEA reports regarding Horacio and
Carlos Vignali are being made public only now, it appears that
suspicions about Horacio Vignali’s role in drug trafficking
were widespread and well-known to law enforcement. In
interviews with Committee staff, Todd Jones and Denise Reilly,
who were responsible for the investigation and prosecution of
Carlos Vignali in Minnesota, both indicated they believed that
Carlos Vignali was not the “end of the line” and were aware
of the widespread belief among investigators that Horacio
Vignali was involved in drug trafficking with his son.\242\ Law
enforcement officers in California had even more detailed
knowledge regarding allegations against Horacio and Carlos
Vignali. According to a number of investigators working for
local law enforcement in Southern California, both Horacio and
Carlos Vignali had been the subjects of major drug
investigations.\243\ As the following reports indicate, a
number of law enforcement agencies apparently received credible
information indicating that Carlos and Horacio Vignali were
personally involved in large-scale drug dealing. These same
agencies also received allegations indicating that the Vignalis
were part of a large organized drug-dealing ring headed by
George Torres.
—————————————————————————
\242\ Telephone Interview with the Honorable Denise Reilly,
Juvenile Court Judge, 4th Judicial District of Minnesota (Hennepin
County) (May 11, 2001); Telephone Interview with Todd Jones, U.S.
Attorney for the District of Minnesota, Department of Justice (May 2,
2000).
\243\ In the course of its inquiry, the Committee has learned that
while the White House was reviewing Carlos Vignali’s clemency petition,
Horacio Vignali and associates of Vignali were part of an Organized
Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (“OCDETF”) investigation in the Los
Angeles area. Various federal and California law enforcement agencies
were investigating Carlos and Horacio Vignali’s involvement in
supplying narcotics before Carlos’ conviction in Minneapolis and
Horacio Vignali’s personal and business relationship with alleged
California drug figure George Torres. In this case, the OCDETF
investigation was being conducted by the federal government in
cooperation with various agencies of the California State Department of
Justice.
—————————————————————————
The first series of reports indicates that there were allegations of drug dealing against Horacio Vignali dating back to 1976. Among those reports is a DEA-6, an internal investigative report, which notes:

[Horacio] Carlos VIGNALI \244\–Co-owner of the C & H
Auto Body Shop. His drug relationship with the
[redacted] Organization is also unknown. VIGNALI
however is a close personal friend of [redacted]. In November, 1975, he negotiated with ATF Agents to sell a machine gun and stated to them that he had also smuggled heroin into the United States utilizing automobiles. Since current intelligence indicates that the remainder of the [redacted] Family in Los Angeles, [redacted] are still dealing in multi-kilogram quantities of heroin, it is recommended that a grand jury probe be initiated with the object of eliminating the remaining [redacted] Organization in Los Angeles by obtaining indictments on [redacted] possibly other members of their organization such as [redacted]
[Horacio] Carlos VIGNALI, [redacted]
.\245\
—————————————————————————
\244\ The DEA report refers to “Carlos Vignali,” but it clearly
means Horacio Vignali, or “Carlos Vignali, Sr.,” as he is known to
many of his associates. The date of birth listed for Vignali, as well
as other personal information, appears to correspond to that of Horacio
Vignali.
\245\ DEA Document Production V-DEA-00009 (DEA-6-Internal
Investigative Report (Feb. 18, 1976)) (Exhibit 23).

—————————————————————————
A December 1, 1976, DEA report contains similar information:

[Horacio] Carlos VIGNAL [sic]–the [redacted]s used his body shop in Los Angeles to take heroin out of the drive shafts of vehicles brought into the United States from Mexico.\246\
—————————————————————————
\246\ DEA Document Production V-DEA-00012 (DEA-6-Internal
Investigative Report (Dec. 1, 1976)) (Exhibit 24).

A more recent set of DEA reports contains additional allegations that Horacio Vignali was involved in drug trafficking. They also show that the DEA received information indicating Horacio was involved in the drug trade with his son
—————————————————————————
Carlos. A March 19, 1993, report states
:

The “traps”, (hidden compartments) were built into
the truck through Carlos VIGNALI Jr. for $5,000.00.
[Redacted] has also purchased cocaine from Carlos
VIGNALI Jr. of Los Angeles. . . . VIGNALI’s father
Carlos VIGNALI aka “pops” owns a body shop, at 1260
Figueroa and is the source of supply for his son.\247\
. . . An associate of VIGNALI, Jorge TORRES aka “G”
owns [NUMBERO UNO] Market on Jefferson St. in Los
Angeles. Across the street from the Market, TORRES
maintains a warehouse full of luxury vehicles and
tractor trailers used to transport cocaine. The
warehouse also has a penthouse complete with a casino
where TORRES and VIGNALI gamble. . . . Cocaine
purchased from VIGNALI Jr. went to [redacted] of
Shreveport, La.\248\
—————————————————————————
\247\ This information casts the following testimony from Horacio
Vignali at Carlos’ trial in a new light: “I treated him like my best
friend, my partner. Anything he needed, I would always provide for him.
Always. It doesn’t matter. I always provided for him.” See Transcript
of Trial, U.S. v. Vignali (D. Minn. Dec. 1, 1994) at 297.
\248\ DEA Document Production (DEA-6-Internal Investigative Report
(Mar. 19, 1993)) (Exhibit 25).

The Committee has received additional information from a
DEA report that it is not releasing because it could identify
confidential informants.\249\ In this report, an informant
alleges, based on his direct knowledge, that Carlos Vignali
sold hundreds of kilograms of cocaine. Additionally, Vignali is
alleged to have stated that he had ties to the relative of a
prominent South American cocaine dealer. Like the other
information in the DEA reports, these allegations are unproven.
—————————————————————————
\249\ See DEA Document Production V-DEA-00028-29 (DEA-6-Internal
Investigative Report (Apr. 26, 1993)) (Exhibit 26). The Committee has
reviewed an unredacted copy of this report but is not releasing it for
the reason described above.
—————————————————————————
In addition to the reports listed above, two recent reports
indicate that the DEA received information linking Horacio
Vignali to a large-scale drug dealing organization headed by
George Torres.\250\ A September 25, 1997, DEA Case Initiation
Report describes the Torres organization
:
—————————————————————————
\250\ At trial, Carlos Vignali conceded that Torres was a friend of
the family and, in particular, of his father. Transcript of Trial, U.S.
v. Vignali (D. Minn. Nov. 29, 1994) at 227. Carlos appears to have used
a variation of George Torres’ name–“Charles Torres”–when he
subscribed for his pager. Because Carlos used that pager to communicate
with his coconspirators in trafficking cocaine, he used “Charles
Torres” to conceal his true identity.

[Torres’ organization] has been in existence since the
middle 1980’s when it was closely associated with the
[redacted] family in their drug trafficking. By the
early 1990’s this group were [sic] transporting
approximately 1,800 kilograms of cocaine into the Los
Angels [sic] area from Mexico. At that time they were
smuggling the cocaine using the [redacted] TORRES’s
tractor-trailer trucks, concealing the drugs inside
laundry detergent and jalapeno chilli [sic] cans.
[Redacted.] Since that time TORRES has continued to be
involved in drug trafficking and information shows that
his organization supply [sic] various drug trafficking
organizations throughout the United States. TORRES’
organization has used illicit profits derived from drug
trafficking to buy legitimate businesses and properties
throughout Los Angels [sic] and southern California. .
. . Investigators believe that the organization uses
these businesses to laundry [sic] its drug
proceeds.\251\
—————————————————————————
\251\ DEA Document Production V-DEA-00110 (DEA Case Initiation
Report (Sept. 25, 1997)) (Exhibit 27).

A September 16, 1998, DEA report about Torres reported the
—————————————————————————
following:

To date, the investigation shows that the TORRES
organization is involved in the importation and
distribution of drugs throughout the United States.
Latest intelligence reveals that this group is
distributing approximately one hundred (100) kilograms
of cocaine per month. [Redacted.] George TORRES is the
head of this organization. TORRES’ direct associates
include [redacted] Carlos Vignali. [Redacted] Carlos
Horatio [sic] VIGNALI’s role in the organization is
relatively unknown at this time. It is believed that
VIGNALI functions as a financial partner in the
organization. VIGNALI has been involved in organizing
meetings between TORRES and individuals with extensive
criminal backgrounds.\252\
—————————————————————————
\252\ DEA Document Production (Case Initiation Report on the George
Torres Cocaine Trafficking Organization, Sept. 16, 1998) (Exhibit 28).

—————————————————————————
The report goes on to describe the scope of Torres’ activities:

The TORRES organization has used its profits from drug
trafficking to purchase legitimate businesses and
properties throughout the Southern California area–The
grocery and wholesale business are cash intensive thus
making it easy to launder illicit funds through them.
In 1996, TORRES’ businesses had sales of approximately
$50,000,000. Investigators believe that TORRES uses
these businesses, properties and vehicles to launder
his drug profits. Members of the TORRES organization
have been involved in various acts of violence. In
1996, TORRES was arrested for being a felon in
possession of a firearm. The Los Angeles Police
Department (LAPD) has named TORRES a suspect in two
murders. One involved a disgruntled employee and the
other involved the owner of a property adjacent to one
of TORRES’ businesses. TORRES has been known to
intimidate and threaten others and in so doing likes to
portray himself as a Mafia member. He often uses his
associates to carry out these acts of
intimidation.\253\
—————————————————————————
\253\ Id.

This troubling report regarding Horacio Vignali and George Torres was received just one month after Carlos Vignali applied for executive clemency.

b. The Extensive Allegations Against Horacio
and Carlos Vignali Were Never Considered by
Sheriff Baca, U.S. Attorney Mayorkas, or the
Clinton White House

The allegations made against Horacio Vignali, Carlos
Vignali, and George Torres are serious. However, with respect
to the decision to commute the sentence of Carlos Vignali, the
key fact is that these allegations existed, and none of the
individuals involved in the clemency process conducted
sufficient due diligence to find these reports. Both Sheriff
Lee Baca and U.S. Attorney Alejandro Mayorkas, who made
supportive calls to the White House on the Vignalis’ behalf,
had access to this information. In addition, the White House
should have been provided with this information as part of the
clemency process. However, it appears that Baca, Mayorkas, and
the White House were all unaware of the extensive allegations
against the Vignalis.
Committee staff asked Sheriff Baca whether he was aware of
any allegations that Horacio Vignali was involved in drug
trafficking. Baca replied that he was not aware of any such
allegations.\254\ Baca readily admitted that he would be the
person to know if there were any such allegations against
Vignali.\255\ Sheriff Baca was also asked if he was familiar
with George Torres. He stated that he knew Torres and “know[s]
him to be a legitimate businessman.” \256\ As he himself
conceded, Sheriff Baca, the top law enforcement officer in Los
Angeles County, should have known if a businessman of Horacio
Vignali’s or George Torres’ caliber was alleged to have been
involved in drug dealing.\257\ Therefore, it is troubling that
Baca is completely unaware of the allegations against Vignali
and Torres. It appears that rather than investigate these
allegations against Horacio Vignali and close down what might
have been a major conduit for drugs into the Los Angeles area,
Sheriff Baca maintained a warm relationship with Vignali and
vouched for him as a “man of the highest integrity and
trustworthiness.” Indeed, Baca held three fundraisers at
Vignali’s C&H Body Shop, which itself was alleged to be a locus
for unloading drugs and outfitting vehicles for smuggling
drugs.
—————————————————————————
\254\ Telephone Interview with Leroy Baca, Sheriff, County of Los
Angeles (June 22, 2001).
\255\ Id.
\256\ Id.
\257\ According to a November 10, 1992, DEA report, the gang
enforcement unit at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department
discovered that a vehicle used by Carlos Vignali was registered to a
company that owned cars “associated with various gangs.” DEA Document
Production V-DEA-00024 (DEA-6, Report of Investigation, “Carlos Anibal
Vignali,” (Nov. 10, 1992)) (Exhibit 29).
—————————————————————————
Committee staff also asked Alejandro Mayorkas whether he
was aware of allegations that Horacio Vignali was involved in
drug trafficking.\258\ Mayorkas expressed great surprise that
Horacio Vignali was the subject of these kinds of
allegations.\259\ When informed of the allegations, Mayorkas
immediately stated that if he had been aware of the
allegations, he would have ruled out any possibility of
involvement in Carlos Vignali’s clemency petition. Mayorkas
also confirmed that it would not have mattered to him that the
allegations against Horacio Vignali were not proven. Mayorkas
stated that “an allegation is enough–the world consists of
the caught and the uncaught. Allegations alone would have
eliminated the possibility [of my involvement].” \260\
—————————————————————————
\258\ Telephone Interview with Alejandro Mayorkas, former U.S.
Attorney for the Central District of California, Department of Justice
(June 15, 2001).
\259\ Id.
\260\ Id.
—————————————————————————
Mayorkas conceded that he did not exercise any due
diligence regarding the Vignalis prior to his weighing in on
the clemency proceedings with the White House.\261\ In other
words, he did not consult his criminal chief or the head of his
narcotics division at the Los Angeles-area U.S. Attorney’s
Office to determine whether his own office had an investigative
or prosecutorial interest in the Vignalis, which might have
conflicted with his assistance to the Vignalis.\262\ Mayorkas
explained that his failure to conduct due diligence resulted
from his belief that he was not supporting Carlos Vignali’s
clemency petition. Since he did not view himself as providing
support for the grant of clemency, Mayorkas did not believe
that he needed to investigate Vignali’s background. However
given what he knows in hindsight about the Vignalis and about
how his call to the White House was interpreted by White House
staff, Mayorkas conceded it was perhaps an error for him to
have taken his involvement in the clemency proceedings so
lightly.\263\
—————————————————————————
\261\ Id.
\262\ Id.
\263\ Id.
—————————————————————————
While Mayorkas’ acceptance of responsibility is
commendable, his actions in this matter remain less than
commendable, especially for the top federal prosecutor in Los
Angeles. Mayorkas has explained that his actions in this matter
were motivated by his sympathy and compassion for a father who
appeared to be distraught by the imprisonment of his son.
Because he failed to conduct due diligence and look into Horacio Vignali’s background before contacting the White House, Mayorkas ended up providing assistance to a man who was alleged to be a drug dealer and the source of cocaine for his son. Like Sheriff Baca, Mayorkas was a senior law enforcement official
charged with protecting his communities. By becoming involved in the Vignali matter without being fully aware of the facts, both did the public a profound disservice to the rule of law
.
There is no indication that the White House was ever made
aware of the additional allegations against Horacio and Carlos
Vignali. Unlike many other last-minute pardons and
commutations, the Vignali commutation was filed with and
processed by the Justice Department. Although the Vignali
petition was filed with the Justice Department in August
1998,\264\ there is no indication that the Justice Department
discovered these allegations against Horacio and Carlos Vignali
during its background check. The memorandum prepared by the
Pardon Attorney, Roger Adams, for President Clinton makes no
mention of these allegations. There is also no indication that
they were provided to the White House in any other form.
However, it is possible that the White House would have learned
about these allegations if it had reached out to the prosecutor
who had tried Vignali’s case or the judge who sentenced him.
Rather, they reached out to Horacio Vignali’s friends and
associates in Los Angeles who knew little about the Vignali
case but were ready to provide a favorable reference.
—————————————————————————
\264\ NARA Document Production (Petition for Commutation of
Sentence) (Exhibit 10).
—————————————————————————
Therefore, the failure of the White House to receive this
information appears to be the result of the skewed, ad hoc
system set up by President Clinton to churn out pardons and
commutations in the waning days of his presidency. This was a
system that necessarily catered to the wealthy and the well-
connected. If White House staff had approached the Vignali
matter in a deliberate manner and had spoken to the individuals
who knew the most about Carlos Vignali’s conviction, they
likely would have learned this information. While it is not
certain that this information regarding the drug dealing
allegations against Horacio and Carlos Vignali would have
changed President Clinton’s mind, it clearly should have been
considered.

C. The White House’s Review of Vignali’s Clemency Request

Carlos Vignali’s clemency petition was first filed with the
Justice Department in August 1998, but it first came under
serious consideration much later, in December 2000, when Hugh
Rodham was hired by the Vignali family and approached the White
House about a grant of clemency for Carlos Vignali. Rodham’s
contacts with the White House started a process culminating in
the January 20, 2001, commutation of Vignali’s sentence. The
process by which the White House considered the Vignali
petition was remarkable and disturbing for a number of reasons:

Hugh Rodham made a number of misrepresentations to
the White House regarding the Vignali matter. Nevertheless, the
White House continued to rely on his word and granted the
commutation he so desperately sought.

The White House sought input from a number of
Vignali’s supporters yet never contacted the prosecutors who
tried the Vignali case or the judge who sentenced him.

The White House ignored the strenuous objections
lodged by the Pardon Attorney who had considered the position
of the prosecutors who tried the Vignali case.

The White House apparently relied heavily on letters
and statements of support by California politicians and law
enforcement figures despite the fact that they either misstated
the Vignali case or were completely unaware of the facts of the
case.

The White House has subsequently misstated the facts
of Vignali’s case in an attempt to justify the unjustifiable.
1. Hugh Rodham’s Hiring
In connection with its investigation, the Committee
requested that Hugh Rodham produce records to the Committee and
participate in an interview with Committee staff. Rodham
refused both requests, citing attorney-client privilege. Rodham
made a blanket invocation of the privilege even though the
privilege does not apply to the vast majority of Rodham’s
activities. For example, Rodham’s contacts with third parties,
like White House staff, are not covered by the attorney-client
privilege. Therefore, by using the attorney-client privilege to
avoid any inquiry from the Committee, Rodham is simply seeking
to avoid questions about his activities rather than to protect
any legitimately privileged information. Despite Rodham’s
unreasonable invocation of privilege, the Committee was able to
piece together a number of Rodham’s activities.
It appears that the Vignalis hired Rodham late in 2000.
According to Luis Valenzuela, a close friend of Horacio
Vignali,\265\ James Casso, the son-in-law and former district
director of former Congressman Esteban Torres, introduced
Horacio Vignali to Rodham sometime around October 2000.\266\ At
that time, Valenzuela attended a dinner at Barrangas restaurant
in Los Angeles where he met with Horacio Vignali, Casso,
Rodham, and three members of the Lum family.\267\ The Lums were
seeking presidential pardons through Hugh Rodham at that time,
and it is possible Rodham introduced the Lums to Horacio
Vignali as a way of marketing his services. After dinner, the
Lums left the restaurant, and Horacio Vignali discussed his
son’s clemency matter with Rodham.\268\ At that point, Horacio
Vignali explained the background of his son’s underlying
conviction and provided Rodham with a binder of materials
regarding his son.\269\ Rodham indicated that he would review
the matter, “make some calls,” and get back to Horacio
Vignali.\270\ For that initial consultation, Rodham charged
Horacio Vignali $4,200.\271\ Valenzuela was not privy to any
further meetings or discussions between Rodham and
Vignali.\272\
—————————————————————————
\265\ Valenzuela is a Los Angeles-area real estate executive and a
member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.
\266\ Telephone Interview with Luis Valenzuela, Vice President, NAI
Capital Commercial Real Estate Services (Oct. 30, 2001). Presently,
Casso, who served as Congressman Torres’ district director until
Torres’ retirement in 1999 and unsuccessfully ran for Congress, is an
attorney with the Los Angeles firm of Alavarez-Glasman & Colvin.
\267\ Id. According to Valenzuela, Nora Lum, her sister, Kathy
Nojima, and her daughter, Nickie, attended the dinner. Because Gene Lum
was then in prison for a tax evasion conviction, he was apparently
unable to attend the dinner. According to Valenzuela, Casso might have
represented the Lums on various real estate matters. Gene and Nora Lum,
who operated an Oklahoma natural-gas pipeline company, received 10-
month sentences after pleading guilty in October 1997 to funneling
$50,000 in illegal contributions to the 1994 re-election campaign of
Senator Edward Kennedy and to an unsuccessful congressional campaign in
Oklahoma. Federal Document Clearing House, Department of Justice, New
Jersey Attorney Sentenced in Campaign Finance Case, Oct. 12, 2000
(summarizing Campaign Task Force prosecutions). They admitted making
the donations through “straw donors,” including their daughter and
Michael Brown, son of the late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown. The
fundraisers gave Michael Brown thousands of dollars in shareholder fees
and corporate perks, and Brown then gave the money to friends to give
to Kennedy’s re-election campaign.
\268\ Telephone Interview with Luis Valenzuela, Vice President, NAI
Capital Commercial Real Estate Services (Oct. 30, 2001).
\269\ Id.
\270\ Id.
\271\ Id. See also City National Bank Document Production (Check
from Horacio C. and Luz C. Vignali to Rodham & Fine, P.A. for $4,200.00
(Nov. 22, 2000)) (Exhibit 30).
\272\ Telephone Interview with Luis Valenzuela, Vice President, NAI
Capital Commercial Real Estate Services (Oct. 30, 2001).
—————————————————————————
Due to the refusal of Horacio Vignali, Hugh Rodham, and
James Casso to cooperate with the Committee, little is known
about the agreement that was reached between Rodham and Vignali
after the Barrangas dinner. What is clear is that Rodham agreed
to help Carlos Vignali obtain a commutation from President
Clinton, and that Horacio Vignali agreed to pay $200,000 to
Rodham, contingent on Rodham’s success in getting Carlos
Vignali out of prison.
Horacio Vignali paid Rodham on January 23, 2001, three days
after Carlos Vignali received his commutation. Vignali’s bank
records make it appear that Vignali originally wrote a check
for $200,000 to Rodham & Fine, Rodham’s law firm, but then
converted those funds into a cashier’s check.\273\ That
cashier’s check was purchased by Maria Cisneros, the office
manager for Horacio Vignali’s Morvis Corvis Corporation.\274\
It is unknown whether Vignali altered his payment method at
Rodham’s request. Hugh Rodham deposited the funds on January
24, 2001.\275\
—————————————————————————
\273\ See Turnberry Bank Document Production (Check from Horacio C.
and Luz C. Vignali to Rodham & Fine for $200,000 (Jan. 23, 2001))
(Exhibit 31); City National Bank Document Production (Application for
Cashier’s Check (Jan. 23, 2001)) (Exhibit 32); First Union Document
Production (Deposit Slip and Cashier’s Check for $200,000 (Jan. 26,
2001)) (Exhibit 33).
\274\ See City National Bank Document Production (Application for
Cashier’s Check (Jan. 23, 2001)) (Exhibit 31); City National Bank
Document Production (Morvis Corvis Business Account Agreement (Mar. 5,
2001)) (Exhibit 34) (describing Maria Cisneros as “office manager”).
\275\ First Union Document Production (Deposit Slip and Cashier’s
Check for $200,000 (Jan. 26, 2001)) (Exhibit 33). In several contexts,
Valenzuela appears to have been involved in funding Horacio Vignali’s
payment to Rodham. On January 12, 2001, Horacio Vignali wrote a check
for $200,000 to City National Bank. On the memo of that check, Vignali
noted “CC: Luis Valenzuela.” See City National Bank Document
Production (Exhibit 35). In a separate transaction, on January 26,
2001, a cashier’s check for $200,000 was purchased, apparently on
Horacio Vignali’s behalf, and made payable to Luis Valenzuela. See City
National Bank Document Production (Exhibit 36). It appears that the
check was later endorsed by Cisneros and ultimately deposited into
Horacio’s personal account. Accordingly, it appears that Vignali
contemplated paying Valenzuela but changed his mind. See City National
Bank Document Production (Deposit Slip for $200,000 (Jan. 26, 2001))
(Exhibit 37). In an interview with Committee staff, Valenzuela did not
know that his name had been put on the checks until after it was done
and, in any case, never came into possession of any of the money.
Telephone Interview with Luis Valenzuela, Vice President, NAI Capital
Commercial Real Estate Services (Oct. 30, 2001). But, Valenzuela
speculated that his name appeared on both instruments because Vignali
probably intended for him to act as an escrow agent for the money if/
when Carlos Vignali was released. According to Valenzuela, this was
probably done “so the representation could be made to [Hugh Rodham]
that the money was in escrow.” Valenzuela believes that such a
representation was made only because “[Horacio] is a very cautious
guy.” Valenzuela believes that he was designated as an escrow agent
without having been notified only because he and Horacio are “like
brothers.”
—————————————————————————
By December 2000, Hugh Rodham was apparently actively
working on Carlos Vignali’s clemency petition. This is
evidenced by a December 9, 2000, letter to Rodham wherein
Horacio Vignali forwarded a number of letters of support for
Carlos Vignali.\276\ The letter begins, “[p]ursuant to your
conversation with Jaime Casso, I am enclosing the testimonial
letters I have been able to secure as of today.” \277\
—————————————————————————
\276\ NARA Document Production (Letter from Horacio Vignali to Hugh
Rodham (Dec. 9, 2000)) (Exhibit 14).
\277\ Id.
—————————————————————————
2. Hugh Rodham’s Initial Approach to the White
House
In mid-December 2000, Rodham first approached Bruce Lindsey
regarding the Vignali case. It appears that Lindsey was
Rodham’s main White House contact. Chief of Staff John Podesta
testified that he did not know Hugh Rodham was advocating
Carlos Vignali’s petition. White House Counsel Beth Nolan
equivocated about her knowledge of Hugh Rodham’s involvement.
Specifically, Nolan answered, “I don’t think I knew that, but
I may have known that.” \278\ Lindsey explained his
interactions with Rodham in the Committee’s March 1, 2001,
hearing:
—————————————————————————
\278\ “The Controversial Pardon of International Fugitive Marc
Rich,” Hearings Before the Comm. on Govt. Reform, 107th Congress 412
(Mar. 1, 2001).

Mr. Rodham called to ask me to take a look at a
commutation application for Carlos Vignali, indicated
that he was a first-time offender, that his application
was supported by the Sheriff of Los Angeles County,
that it was supported by the U.S. Attorney in Los
—————————————————————————
Angeles.

* * *

[H]e also told me it was supported by the trial
attorney who actually tried the case in Minnesota. That
turned out probably not to be correct.

* * *

[He] [t]old me it was supported by the U.S. Attorney in
Los Angeles, by the Sheriff of Los Angeles County, by
the Cardinal Archbishop Diocese and Archdiocese in Los
Angeles, Cardinal Mahoney, by several Congressmen,
former Congressmen, city council people. . . . I
indicated to him that it was–that he had served six
years approximately. I indicated to Mr. Rodham that
that was the kind of application the President actually
was interested in looking at. He was interested in
looking at first-time drug offenders who did not play
major roles in the crime and that we would take a look
at it.\279\
—————————————————————————
\279\ Id. at 361-62.

Based on Bruce Lindsey’s testimony, in his initial
presentation to Lindsey, Rodham made a number of serious
misrepresentations. First, he claimed that Vignali was a first-
time offender. As described above, this is plainly false
because Vignali had two prior convictions and two other
arrests. In addition, Vignali was an admitted gang member.
Second, when Rodham told Lindsey that Vignali was a “first-
time drug offender who did not play a major role in the
crime,” Rodham misstated the case against Vignali. As
explained above, Vignali was a major source of cocaine and was
sentenced accordingly. Third, Rodham informed Lindsey that the
Vignali petition was “supported by the trial attorney who
actually tried the case in Minnesota.” While Lindsey could
bring himself only to concede that Rodham’s statement was
“probably not correct,” it is, in fact, utterly false.\280\
The only question is whether Rodham’s lie was his own creation,
calculated to mislead the White House or whether he was fed the
lie by the Vignalis or others working on their behalf. Rodham’s
lie regarding the position of the Minnesota U.S. Attorney’s
office was no small matter. It was apparently passed on by
Lindsey to Meredith Cabe and Eric Angel, the White House
lawyers working on the pardon. Both noted they had originally
believed that the prosecutors supported the commutation and
then learned that their information was not accurate.\281\
Rodham’s misinformation also found its way into White House
documents analyzing the Vignali matter. In a chart dated
January 9, 2001, a White House staffer stated that “acc. to
representatives, U.S. Atty in Minneapolis (who prosecuted him)
supports [clemency.]” \282\
—————————————————————————
\280\ There are only three possible prosecutors Rodham could have
been referring to: Todd Jones, Andrew Dunne, or Denise Reilly.
Committee staff interviewed Jones and Reilly, and they were strongly
opposed to the commutation. Committee staff were not able to interview
Dunne, but Jones informed Committee staff that Dunne helped him prepare
the Minnesota U.S. Attorney Office’s formal opposition to the Vignali
commutation. Therefore, it is certain that he opposed the commutation
as well. It is clear now that no attorney involved in prosecuting
Vignali supported the commutation, and it was just as clear when Hugh
Rodham made his misrepresentation to the White House.
\281\ Interview with Meredith Cabe, former Associate Counsel to the
President, the White House (Mar. 16, 2001).
\282\ NARA Document Production (chart of former Associate White
House Counsel Eric Angel) at 6 (Exhibit 38).
—————————————————————————
After Lindsey spoke to Rodham, Lindsey referred the Vignali
matter to Meredith Cabe, the Associate White House Counsel
responsible for clemency issues. Cabe conducted a brief review
of the two-page clemency petition but did not read any of the
appendices submitted with the petition.\283\ Cabe also stated
that she frequently received materials from Lindsey regarding
the Vignali case.\284\ Presumably, Lindsey received these
materials from Hugh Rodham and other outsiders interested in
the Vignali case.
—————————————————————————
\283\ Interview with Meredith Cabe, former Associate Counsel to the
President, the White House (Mar. 16, 2001).
\284\ Id.
—————————————————————————
Despite Hugh Rodham’s efforts to mislead, the White House
was able to obtain accurate information about Carlos Vignali.
Thanks to the Pardon Attorney, the White House learned that
Carlos Vignali had prior convictions and that the U.S. Attorney
in Minnesota opposed his commutation. However, it is surprising
that having caught Hugh Rodham providing patently false
information, the White House staff would go ahead and recommend
that Rodham’s client receive a commutation anyway.
3. The Justice Department’s Input on the Vignali Case
Long before the Vignali case was brought to the White
House’s attention by Hugh Rodham, staff in the Justice
Department Pardon Attorney’s office had been considering the
Vignali petition. The petition was initially filed with the
Department in August 1998. Some point after that date, the
Pardon Attorney’s office conducted a background investigation
of Vignali. Such a report would typically involve contacts with
the prosecutors and FBI, a review of a report from the Bureau
of Prisons, the presentence report, and the judgment and
commitment order.\285\ In the fall of 2000, the Pardon Attorney
forwarded a draft report to the Deputy Attorney General
recommending the denial of Vignali’s clemency petition. A staff
member of the Deputy Attorney General would typically review
the Pardon Attorney’s recommendation and provide the Pardon
Attorney’s recommendation and her own comments to the Deputy
Attorney General for his review. The Deputy Attorney General
could then sign off on the Pardon Attorney’s recommendation and
provide it to the President for his consideration.
—————————————————————————
\285\ Interview with Deborah Smolover, Associate Deputy Attorney
General, Department of Justice (Mar. 12, 2001).
—————————————————————————
However, the usual Justice Department process was not
followed in the Vignali case. In November 2000, the White House
instructed the Deputy Attorney General’s office to stop sending
recommendations for clemency denials to the President.\286\ The
White House told the Deputy Attorney General’s office that it
was interested in favorable clemency recommendations,
specifically favorable pardon recommendations, and to place a
priority on forwarding such favorable recommendations to the
White House.\287\ As a result of this directive, the Deputy
Attorney General stopped forwarding to the White House negative
clemency recommendations prepared by the Pardon Attorney.\288\
—————————————————————————
\286\ Id.
\287\ Id.
\288\ Id.
—————————————————————————
This was almost the fate of the Pardon Attorney’s report
regarding Carlos Vignali. At some point in the fall of 2000,
the Pardon Attorney prepared a report that strongly recommended
against the Vignali commutation.\289\ The report was forwarded
to the Deputy Attorney General’s office, where it was reviewed
by Deborah Smolover, the Associate Deputy Attorney General
responsible for supervision of the Office of the Pardon
Attorney. Smolover stated that the Vignali report was not
signed off on by the Deputy Attorney General or forwarded to
the White House because it fell into the category of reports
that the White House staff had earlier said it did not want to
receive–negative clemency recommendations.\290\ However, after
an inquiry from the Pardon Attorney, Roger Adams, Smolover sent
the Vignali report back to Adams and told him that he could
sign off on the memo and send it to the White House.\291\ Adams
believed it was important for the Justice Department to be on
the record as opposed to the Vignali commutation, so he signed
the memo and sent it to the White House on January 12,
2001.\292\
—————————————————————————
\289\ Id.
\290\ Id.
\291\ Interview with Roger Adams, Pardon Attorney, Department of
Justice (Feb. 27, 2001).
\292\ Id.
—————————————————————————
The failure of the Deputy Attorney General to sign off on
the recommendation against the Vignali commutation is
disturbing. Deborah Smolover could not recall any cases other
than Vignali’s where the Pardon Attorney, rather than the
Deputy Attorney General, signed off on a recommendation
memorandum.\293\ Moreover, she did not ascribe any significance
to the fact that Pardon Attorney Roger Adams, rather than Eric
Holder, signed it. However, Roger Adams stated that Holder
refused to sign two or three denial recommendations because he
“didn’t want to sign any more denials.” \294\ But, Smolover
stated that Holder would not have allowed Adams to send any
recommendation with which he did not agree to the White
House.\295\ In addition, Smolover could not offer any
reasonable explanation why Holder refused to sign the denial
recommendation at issue but allowed Adams to send it to the
White House under Adams’ own signature. In the Marc Rich case,
Holder’s actions made it clear that he was attempting to please
his superiors in the White House while trying to maintain some
credibility as a prosecutor serious about law and order. He
failed miserably in the Rich case, first by failing to warn
prosecutors that the Rich case was being considered and then by
taking the position that he was “neutral, leaning towards
favorable” on the pardon if it helped the Middle East peace
process. It appears that Holder took a similarly irresolute
position in the Vignali case–allowing his subordinate to
oppose the Vignali commutation while refusing to go on the
record against a commutation the President apparently wanted to
grant and the President’s own brother-in-law supported.
—————————————————————————
\293\ Interview with Deborah Smolover, Associate Deputy Attorney
General, Department of Justice (Mar. 12, 2001).
\294\ Interview with Roger Adams, Pardon Attorney, Department of
Justice (Feb. 27, 2001).
\295\ Interview with Deborah Smolover, Associate Deputy Attorney
General, Department of Justice (Mar. 12, 2001).
—————————————————————————
The report recommending against the Vignali commutation was
an important one. For the first time, it made the White House
aware of a number of key facts in the Vignali case,\296\
including Vignali’s role in the offense and the basis for his
sentencing. Adams pointed out that Vignali had two prior
convictions and two prior arrests and that he had not disclosed
the arrests on his petition, as was required. Adams included in
his report the opposition of the Minnesota U.S. Attorney’s
Office:
—————————————————————————
\296\ NARA Document Production (Report to the President on Proposed
Denial of Executive Clemency for Carlos Anibal Vignali, Jr. (Jan. 12,
2001)) (Exhibit 4). Adams noted that “Petitioner’s defense counsel
used th[e] fact [that he was the sole Hispanic charged] to argue his
client’s innocence to the jury, characterizing the case as involving a
`black drug dealing network,’ and emphasizing that petitioner was not
black.”

United States Attorney B. Todd Jones strongly opposes
clemency for petitioner, noting that petitioner’s
persistent claims of innocence are undermined by [the]
—————————————————————————
strength of the evidence presented against him:

Th[e] testimony [of the cooperating
coconspirators] was consistent and
independently corroborated by Title III
wiretap interceptions, search warrant
evidence and police surveillance. The
evidence clearly established that
Carlos Vignali, Jr., was a member of
the charged drug conspiracy and
facilitated the distribution of
narcotics in the Twin Cities by
supplying Evans, Williams and Hopson
with substantial quantities of cocaine
from Los Angeles, California.

Mr. Jones noted that the two main cooperating
coconspirators, Williams and Evans, received sentences
of 180 months and 95 months respectively. He concluded
by stating:

The sentence imposed by Judge Doty
reflects the seriousness of the
defendant’s role in a large scale
narcotics conspiracy as the California
source of cocaine to Evans, Williams,
and Hopson. To my knowledge Vignali has
refused to accept personal
responsibility for his criminal
activities and has never expressed
sincere remorse for his conduct. In
light of the exacting standards
generally applicable in pardon cases,
this case does not warrant such a
commutation.\297\
—————————————————————————
\297\ Id.

After quoting the Minnesota U.S. Attorney, Roger Adams offered
—————————————————————————
his position on the Vignali commutation:

In applying for clemency, petitioner has to a large
degree merely recycled arguments already rejected by
the jury and courts. He continues to deny his guilt,
and his petition contains misleading statements and
misstatements of fact. As for his allegation that he
has no connection to Minnesota, the jury convicted him
of the offense of supplying large quantities of cocaine
to distributors in that state. Moreover, his contention
that his sentence is excessive fails in light of the
sentencing record, which establishes that the district
court accorded him leniency in refusing to adopt two
enhancements recommended by the presentence report. For
all these reasons, I recommend that you deny his
petition.\298\
—————————————————————————
\298\ Id.

It appears that the Pardon Attorney’s report had an impact
on the White House staff. Next to the portion of the report
discussing Judge Doty’s sentence of Vignali, a White House
staffer wrote a note reading, “He recommended other cases–was
he contacted?” \299\ Apparently, members of the White House
staff were aware that Judge Doty recommended commutations for
Serena Nunn and Kim Willis, making his opposition to the
Vignali commutation even more significant. Despite this inquiry
from a White House staffer, Judge Doty was never contacted.
More importantly, at the end of Roger Adams’ report, a White
House staffer wrote, “Need to XC for Bruce. Definitely isn’t
simply making a loan–& do we believe the gang thing? USA is
actually against–maybe we shd call & ck the recs we’ve been
told of?” \300\ Apparently, the report dispelled any beliefs
the White House might have had regarding Carlos Vignali’s story
that the $25,000 he had been paid was simply payback on a loan
he had made to friends. The notation “USA is actually
against–maybe we shd call & ck the recs we’ve been told of”
indicates that the Adams report was the first clear enunciation
received by the White House that the Minnesota U.S. Attorney
was actually opposed to the commutation. It also indicates that
learning of this fact cast some doubt on other information that
had been shared with the White House, likely by Hugh Rodham.
Despite the clear doubts expressed by the White House staffer’s
notes on the Adams memo, apparently little was done to follow
up on those doubts. The White House staff never followed up
with either the prosecutors or the judge in the Vignali case.
—————————————————————————
\299\ Id.
\300\ Id.
—————————————————————————
4. The Final Decision on the Vignali Commutation
a. Contacts Between the White House and
Interested Parties
In addition to reviewing the Pardon Attorney’s comments on
the Vignali commutation petition, White House staff contacted a
number of individuals regarding Vignali. First, Meredith Cabe
recalls that Representative Xavier Becerra was advocating for
the Vignali commutation. \301\ According to other White House
staff, Representative Becerra “peppered” the White House with
calls on Vignali’s behalf.\302\ Together with her colleague
Eric Angel, Cabe also spoke to U.S. Attorney Alejandro
Mayorkas. According to Cabe, Mayorkas said he supported the
petition but admitted he was not familiar with the details of
the case.\303\ Cabe also recalls that Mayorkas stated that most
drug sentences were disproportionate and that this one likely
was as well.\304\ Eric Angel recalls that Mayorkas expressed
support for the Vignali family and opined that Carlos Vignali
would have a strong support network if he were released. Angel
also recalled that Mayorkas made general comments about the
length of Vignali’s sentence and a statement to the effect that
“a lot of these sentences are too long and this one was long
too.” \305\
—————————————————————————
\301\ Interview with Meredith Cabe, former Associate Counsel to the
President, the White House (Mar. 16, 2001).
\302\ Richard Serrano and Stephen Braun, Working the American
System, L.A. Times, Apr. 29, 2001, at A1.
\303\ Interview with Meredith Cabe, former Associate Counsel to the
President, the White House (Mar. 16, 2001).
\304\ Id.
\305\ Interview with Eric Angel, former Associate Counsel to the
President, the White House (Mar. 28, 2001).
—————————————————————————
In an interview with Committee staff, Dawn Woollen, Deputy
White House Counsel Bruce Lindsey’s administrative assistant,
conceded that she wrote a note to Lindsey that indicated, among
other things, that “Sheriff Baca from LA is more than happy to
speak with you about him but is uncomfortable writing a letter
offering his full support.” \306\ According to Woollen, her
note reflected a telephone conversation with Hugh Rodham around
early January 2001.\307\ Within a week of having spoken with
Hugh Rodham, Woollen “very briefly” spoke to Sheriff Baca
about the Vignali matter.\308\ Originally, Sheriff Baca left a
telephone message for Lindsey, but, as per Lindsey’s request,
Woollen returned Baca’s call.\309\ During that conversation,
according to Woollen, Sheriff Baca “expressed his support for
the Vignali commutation.” \310\ According to Woollen, Baca
also told her he was uncomfortable writing a letter offering
his full support for the petition but did not say why.\311\
—————————————————————————
\306\ Interview with Dawn Woollen, Administrative Assistant to
Deputy White House Counsel Bruce Lindsey, the White House (Sept. 25,
2001). NARA Document Production (Handwritten Note from Woollen to
Lindsey) (Exhibit 22).
\307\ Interview with Dawn Woollen, Administrative Assistant to
Deputy White House Counsel Bruce Lindsey, the White House (Sept. 25,
2001).
\308\ Id. This conversation with Sheriff Baca was the witness’ only
conversation with Sheriff Baca about the Vignali clemency matter.
\309\ Id.
\310\ Id. With Committee staff, Woollen was unequivocal about her
understanding about Baca’s support for the petition. When asked by
Committee staff what the specific basis was for her understanding as to
Baca’s position, Woollen replied, “Sheriff Baca said that he supported
[the commutation].” Woollen further stated that “it was clear that
Sheriff Baca was supporting the commutation.”
\311\ Id.
—————————————————————————
Contrary to statements Baca has made to this Committee,
according to Woollen, at no point during his conversation with
her did he say that he was unfamiliar with the facts associated
with Vignali’s clemency petition or cite any unfamiliarity with
the underlying conviction as a basis for not commenting on
Vignali’s clemency petition.\312\ Finally, according to
Woollen, Sheriff Baca did not express any support for Carlos
Vignali’s father or even mention the name “Horacio.” \313\
The degree to which Baca and Woolen disagree about the nature
of their conversation gives rise to serious concern.
—————————————————————————
\312\ Id.
\313\ Id.
—————————————————————————
Despite the general nature of the White House’s discussions
with Mayorkas and Baca, their support has been described as
being important in the decision to grant clemency to Vignali.
Cabe understood the qualifications offered by Mayorkas but
still viewed his support as “significant” because “few
prosecutors advocate clemency in any form.” \314\ Similarly,
Bruce Lindsey stated:
—————————————————————————
\314\ Interview with Meredith Cabe, former Associate Counsel to the
President, the White House (Mar. 16, 2001).

I originally was probably negative. . . . But after I
received a call from the sheriff of Los Angeles and our
office reached out to the U.S. Attorney in the central
district of California and Los Angeles, I decided that
given the community support and their position that
into the county in which he would go to live, that they
would be aware of the crime situation, if you will, in
their community, and if they were not concerned about
him coming back to their community, that I thought it
was an appropriate commutation.\315\
—————————————————————————
\315\ “The Controversial Pardon of International Fugitive Marc
Rich,” Hearings Before the Comm. on Govt. Reform, 107th Congress 426
(Mar. 1, 2001).

The White House’s reliance on the support for the
commutation voiced by Baca and Mayorkas should be juxtaposed
against the fact that the White House made no attempt to speak
to the prosecutors or judge involved in the Vignali case. Judge
David Doty, who sentenced Vignali, has stated that he was
surprised by the commutation \316\ and that, if the White House
had contacted him, he would have argued against a commutation
for Vignali.\317\ Judge Doty believes Vignali was an unsuitable
candidate for clemency first because his sentence was
appropriate: “Carlos deserved what he got . . . I hit him in
the middle, not in the low end. . . . And I didn’t max him
out.” \318\ Judge Doty also noted that Vignali was not a
small-time offender: “[He] provided funds to the conspiracy,
provided places and was involved in the direct transfers. He
was a big player. He was one of the top two or three
defendants.” \319\ Judge Doty also pointed out that Carlos
Vignali had never admitted his crime, noting that Vignali “was
non-repentant.” Even after I sentenced him, he claimed he had
been railroaded.” \320\ Judge Doty’s strong position against
the Vignali commutation is even more significant given his
longstanding opposition to mandatory minimum sentences for drug
offenses and his support for clemency for two other drug
offenders he had sentenced.\321\
—————————————————————————
\316\ Los Angeles Cardinal Regrets Role in Pardon, N.Y. Times, Feb.
13, 2001, at A26.
\317\ Drug Kingpin’s Release Adds to Clemency Uproar, L.A. Times,
Feb. 11, 2001, at A1.
\318\ Bob von Sternberg and Pam Louwagie, Judge Who Sentenced
Dealer in Minnesota Questions Clemency, Star Trib. (Minneapolis, MN)
Feb. 15, 2001, at A1.
\319\ Richard Serrano and Stephen Braun, Vignali Case Built on
Informants, Wiretaps, L.A. Times, Feb. 15, 20001, at A1.
\320\ Richard Serrano and Stephen Braun, Drug Kingpin’s Release
Adds to Clemency Uproar, L.A. Times, Feb. 11, 2001, at A1.
\321\ Bob von Sternberg and Pam Louwagie, Tale of a Prodigal
Father, Star Trib. (Minneapolis, MN) Feb. 18, 2001, at A1; Bob von
Sternberg and Pam Louwagie, Judge Who Sentenced Dealer in Minnesota
Questions Clemency, Star Trib. (Minneapolis, MN) Feb. 15, 2001, at A1.
Judge Doty wrote in support of grants of clemency for Serena Nunn and
Kim Allen Willis, two small-time drug offenders who had been sentenced
to 15 year terms in prison. Judge Doty as well as prosecutors and
investigators involved in the Nunn and Willis cases agreed that they
were truly low-level drug offenders who had been caught up in a larger
conspiracy and were suitable candidates for clemency.
—————————————————————————
Similarly, the White House never consulted the lawyers who
prosecuted Vignali. Meredith Cabe stated that she did not
consult with the prosecutors because the Justice Department had
already been in contact with them and their position on the
commutation was already clear. However, Cabe’s explanation is
less than satisfactory. Just because the White House knew that
the prosecuting office opposed a grant of clemency for Vignali
did not eliminate the need to actually speak to the prosecutors
who had tried the case. If the White House staff had discussed
the grant of clemency with the U.S. Attorney or his staff, it
is possible that the prosecutors could have explained the scope
of Vignali’s drug-dealing activities, his utter lack of
remorse, or the suspicions regarding his other drug-dealing
activities or those suspected of his father.
b. Contacts Between the White House and Hugh
Rodham
In the final days of the Clinton Administration, it appears
that Hugh Rodham had several contacts with White House staff
about the Vignali matter. Rodham spoke to Bruce Lindsey twice
more about Vignali after his initial conversation in December
2000 and Meredith Cabe once about Vignali. Rodham’s counsel
described the two subsequent contacts with Bruce Lindsey as
follows: “he subsequently submitted and discussed letters of
recommendation, and he made a final follow up inquiry.” \322\
Meredith Cabe stated that Rodham called her about the Lums, for
whom Rodham had been requesting executive clemency, and brought
up Vignali.\323\ Cabe recalled that Rodham was concerned that
the White House was getting bad information about Vignali and
believed that someone had accused Vignali of being in a
gang.\324\
—————————————————————————
\322\ Letter from Nancy Luque, Counsel for Hugh Rodham, Reed Smith,
to the Honorable Dan Burton, Chairman, Comm. on Govt. Reform (Feb. 28,
2001) at 2 (within Appendix I).
\323\ Interview with Meredith Cabe, former Associate Counsel to the
President, the White House (Mar. 16, 2001).
\324\ Id.
—————————————————————————
No one on the White House staff has made it clear how
Rodham’s lobbying was viewed by the President or his staff. In
their defense, White House staff have claimed that they never
figured out that Rodham represented Vignali or was receiving a
large fee from Vignali for his work. When questioned in a
Committee hearing, Lindsey was vague about whether the
President was informed about Rodham’s role in the Vignali
matter:

Mr. LaTourette. I am interested in what took place in
front of the President, and the meeting that you
remember, Ms. Nolan, whether these guys were there or
weren’t there, was the fact that Hugh Rodham was
advocating this position, or was advocating that Mr.
Vignali receive a pardon [or] commutation, was that
discussed in your presence? Was Hugh Rodham’s name
invoked to the President of the United States in this
meeting?

Ms. Nolan. I don’t know, Mr. LaTourette.

Mr. LaTourette. How about you, Mr. Lindsey?

Mr. Lindsey. I don’t recall. I don’t have a specific
memory of mentioning it. I wouldn’t have hesitated to
mention it. I just don’t recall.

Mr. LaTourette. You don’t remember. How about you, Mr.
Podesta?

Mr. Podesta. With the caveat that I gave earlier, in
the meeting I was in where Vignali was discussed, Mr.
Rodham’s name did not come up.\325\
—————————————————————————
\325\ “The Controversial Pardon of International Fugitive Marc
Rich,” Hearings Before the Comm. on Govt. Reform, 107th Congress 412
(Mar. 1, 2001).

The hazy recollection of senior White House staff therefore
makes it impossible to know whether Rodham’s name was invoked
in the discussions that White House staff had with the
President.

c. Hugh Rodham’s Invocation of First Lady
Hillary Clinton
One critically important document makes it clear that, at a
minimum, Hugh Rodham invoked the First Lady’s name in lobbying
for Vignali’s commutation. That document, a note handwritten by
Dawn Woollen, the administrative assistant of Deputy White
House Counsel Bruce Lindsey, states, “Hugh says this is very
important to him and the First Lady as well as others. Sheriff
Baca from LA is more than happy to speak with you about him but
is uncomfortable writing a letter offering his full support.”
\326\
—————————————————————————
\326\ NARA Document Production (Handwritten Note from Dawn Woollen,
Administrative Assistant to Deputy Chief of Staff Bruce Lindsey, the
White House, to Bruce Lindsey, Deputy Chief of Staff, the White House)
(Exhibit 22).
—————————————————————————
In an interview with Committee staff, Woollen recalled
having spoken with Hugh Rodham about the Vignali matter on at
least five occasions.\327\ After one such conversation, around
early January 2001, Woollen wrote the previously described note
to Lindsey.\328\ When presented with that note during her
interview with Committee staff, Woollen confirmed that the note
was accurate.\329\ But, independent of what she wrote on the
note, Woollen could not recall what Rodham said about the First
Lady’s knowledge of the Vignali issue.\330\
—————————————————————————
\327\ Interview with Dawn Woollen, Administrative Assistant to
Deputy Chief of Staff Bruce Lindsey, the White House (Sept. 25, 2001).
All of those conversations took place over the phone. Id.
\328\ Id.
\329\ Id.
\330\ Id.
—————————————————————————
At the very least, Woollen’s note reflects attempts by Hugh
Rodham to capitalize financially on his association with the
First Family by invoking his sister’s support for the Vignali
petition without her knowledge. After Hugh Rodham’s role in
clemency proceedings pending before President Clinton was
publicly disclosed, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton asserted
that she “knew nothing about [her] brother’s involvement in
these pardons” and that she “did not have any involvement in
the pardons that were granted or not granted.” \331\ In fact,
when Senator Clinton was asked by the media about pardons
President Clinton granted in the final hours of his
administration, she replied, “I was very disturbed to learn
that my brother, Hugh Rodham, received fees in connection with
two clemency applications. . . . Hugh did not speak with me
about these applications.” \332\ When asked about President
Clinton’s last-minute pardons generally, she stated, “you’ll
have to talk with people who were involved in making them, and
that leaves me out.” \333\ Indeed, according to Senator
Clinton, her involvement in pardon matters pending before the
President was limited to passing on “envelopes” that were
given to her.\334\ The Woollen note leaves only two
possibilities: (1) that Hugh Rodham indeed told Hillary Clinton
about his efforts on behalf of Carlos Vignali and that Hillary
Clinton was not being candid when she stated that Hugh did not
speak to her about Vignali; or (2) Hugh Rodham was lying when
he told Woollen that the Vignali case was “very important” to
the First Lady. The first possibility raises serious questions
about the conduct of the former First Lady, and the second
possibility raises serious questions about the conduct of Hugh
Rodham.
—————————————————————————
\331\ Sumana Chatterjee, Hillary Clinton Addresses Pardons
Involving Brother, Campaign Aide, Knight Ridder (Washington Bureau)
Feb. 23, 2001.
\332\ James V. Grimaldi and Peter Slevin, Hillary Clinton’s Brother
Was Paid for Role in 2 Pardons, Wash. Post, Feb. 22, 2001, at A1.
\333\ Jackie Judd, Senator Hillary Clinton Answers Questions About
Her Brother’s Involvement in Two Presidential Pardons, ABC World News
Tonight, Feb. 22, 2001.
\334\ Sumana Chatterjee, Hillary Clinton Addresses Pardons
Involving Brother, Campaign Aide, Knight Ridder (Washington Bureau)
Feb. 23, 2001.
—————————————————————————
d. The President’s Decision to Grant the
Commutation
White House staff have been vague in describing the process
the Vignali commutation went through. Cabe indicated that staff
had a mixed opinion regarding the Vignali case until the end of
the process, when they were all in agreement to recommend
Vignali for a commutation.\335\ White House documents seem to
confirm vacillation in the White House’s position on the
matter. One document about the Vignali case states, “Lean
no,” \336\ and another states, “STAFF: mixed(?)” \337\ Cabe
also indicated that Vignali was considered together with a
number of other drug cases in which the defendant had been
“oversentenced.” \338\ Cabe recalls that others in this group
were Lau Ching Chin, Derek Curry, Peter Ninemire, and Loretta
De-Ann Kaufman.\339\ These parts of Cabe’s recollection are
confirmed by documents. A chart of potential pardons and
commutations maintained by Associate White House Counsel Eric
Angel with the heading “Disparate Sentencing Commutation
Cases” includes Vignali’s name with the notations:
—————————————————————————
\335\ Interview with Meredith Cabe, former Associate Counsel to the
President, the White House (Mar. 16, 2001).
\336\ NARA Document Production (chart of “Disparate Sentencing
Commutation Cases”) at 21 (Exhibit 39).
\337\ NARA Document Production (alternate chart of “Disparate
Sentencing Commutation Cases” at 11 (Exhibit 40).
\338\ Interview with Meredith Cabe, former Associate Counsel to the
President, the White House (Mar. 16, 2001).
\339\ Id.

Arg is he is not guilty–loaned $25K to a friend, which
he args was falsely interpreted to be part of drug
conspiracy; aged 24 at time of offense, with no
significant criminal record; args he had minor role;
DOJ states that petitioner was supplier for major
cocaine distribution organization and has two 1989
convictions for fighting in public place and vandalism;
1990 arrest for corporal injury to spouse or
cohabitant, dismissed. DOJ says U.S. Attorney strongly
opposes. DOJ recommends denial.\340\
—————————————————————————
\340\ NARA Document Production (Exhibit 39).

A separate column of Angel’s chart discusses who supported the
—————————————————————————
Vignali commutation:

Reps. Becerra, Torres ask for “every consideration”
because parents are friends; Council of CA State
Legislators also ask for consideration; Archbishop of
LA supports; acc. To representatives, U.S. Atty in
Minnesota (who prosecuted him) supports; LA Sheriff Lee
Baca and LA US Atty Alejandro Mayorkas support; Maria
E[chaveste] has inquired.\341\
—————————————————————————
\341\ Id.

Given President Clinton’s silence regarding his pardons and
commutations, it is impossible to know which factors led to his
decision to commute Vignali’s sentence. Clearly, there were a
number of outside factors contributing to the President’s
decision: a White House staff generally supportive of the
decision; pressure, including misleading statements, from Hugh
Rodham; and pressure from California political figures. On
January 20, 2001, President Clinton commuted Carlos Vignali’s
sentence to time served, reducing his 15-year sentence to only
about 5 years.
5. The White House Has No Justification for the Vignali
Commutation
The process by which the President actually reached the
decision to grant the Vignali commutation is still a mystery.
Apparently, the President did not reach his decision to grant
the commutation until January 19, after a meeting with his
staff. Since the President has never answered questions about
the Vignali matter, the Committee has not been able to
determine which facts influenced his decisionmaking. The
President’s failure to speak out on the Vignali matter leaves a
number of key questions unanswered:

To what extent did Hugh Rodham’s
representation of Carlos Vignali play a role in the
President’s decision to grant Vignali’s commutation?

Did First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton
support the effort to obtain the Vignali commutation?

Did the President or the First Lady know
that Rodham was being paid $200,000 for obtaining the
Vignali commutation?

When did the President make the decision to
commute Vignali’s sentence and why?

In the absence of answers to these questions, the Committee
must examine the arguments offered by the White House to
justify the Vignali commutation. These arguments, set forth
below, are all spurious.
“Vignali was a minor participant in a large drug
conspiracy.” It appears that the White House based its
decision on the belief that Vignali was only a minor
participant in the Minnesota-area drug dealing scheme. As
Lindsey testified before the Committee:

I actually believe the judge made a specific finding
that [Carlos Vignali] was responsible for five to 15
kilos, which is I think 11 to 33 pounds. I think the
total amount of money he was involved with was $2,500–
$25,000 excuse me. So I don’t think it is correct that
he was responsible for $800,000; and in fact, I believe
there was a specific finding that he was not. There was
also I believe a specific finding that he was not an
organizer, leader of the conspiracy.\342\
—————————————————————————
\342\ “The Controversial Pardon of International Fugitive Marc
Rich,” Hearings Before the Comm. on Govt. Reform, 107th Congress 362
(Mar. 1, 2001).

In applying the federal sentencing guidelines to Vignali’s
case, Judge Doty indeed attributed five to fifteen kilograms of
cocaine to Vignali, rather than the fifteen to fifty kilograms
suggested in the pre-sentence report.\343\ Judge Doty
nevertheless enhanced Vignali’s offense level because he found
that Vignali committed perjury by denying that he was involved
in the distribution of cocaine.\344\ The judge also concluded
that Vignali’s role as a supplier of cocaine tended to make him
more culpable than other co-defendants.\345\ These conclusions
led the judge to give Vignali a sentence on the upper end of
the guideline range.\346\ Therefore, Bruce Lindsey’s heavy
reliance on Judge Doty’s finding that Vignali was responsible
for only five to fifteen kilograms of cocaine appears highly
disingenuous. Indeed, Judge Doty sentenced Vignali to 175
months imprisonment despite his belief that the evidence
adduced at trial supported a finding that Vignali supplied
between five and fifteen kilograms of cocaine. Lindsey
completely ignored the judge’s finding that Vignali perjured
himself when he denied any involvement in supplying narcotics.
For Lindsey to accept that Vignali was responsible for
supplying between five and fifteen kilograms of cocaine would
have required that Lindsey accept that Vignali perjured himself
at trial and refused to accept responsibility for what he had
done. It is difficult to believe that Lindsey would recommend
that such a person be granted executive clemency.\347\
—————————————————————————
\343\ Judgment in a Criminal Case, U.S. v. Vignali (D. Minn. July
17, 1995) (Exhibit 3).
\344\ Id.
\345\ Id.
\346\ Id.
\347\ Judge Doty was never contacted by the White House about
Vignali’s clemency application. L.A. Cardinal Regrets Role in Pardon,
N.Y. Times, Feb. 13, 2001, at A26; Richard A. Serrano and Stephen
Braun, Drug Kingpin’s Release Adds to Clemency Uproar, L.A. Times, Feb.
11, 2001 at A1. Referring to the Vignali commutation, Judge Doty stated
“I have no idea why it happened, but we are all aghast.” Los Angeles
Cardinal Regrets Role in Pardon, N.Y. Times, Feb. 13, 2001 at A26.
According to Judge Doty, Carlos Vignali never acknowledged
responsibility or showed remorse for his crime, “He was non-repentant.
. . . Even after I sentenced him, he claimed he had been railroaded.”
Richard A. Serrano and Stephen Braun, Drug Kingpin’s Release Adds to
Clemency Uproar, L.A. Times, Feb. 11, 2001 at A1.
—————————————————————————
The White House’s reliance on Judge Doty’s findings
regarding the amount of cocaine Vignali supplied was
irresponsible and misleading for another reason. The judge’s
finding was a highly technical decision relating to the offense
level computed under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Under
those guidelines, a different base offense level is applied if
the offender supplies between 5 and 15 kilograms of cocaine
than if he deals between 15 and 50 kilograms of cocaine. When
deciding whether to grant Vignali’s clemency request, one would
think the White House would be more interested in an evaluation
of who Vignali was and what he was doing in a generalized sense
than in trying to defeat a technical application of the
sentencing guidelines. If the White House had wanted such an
evaluation, it could have turned either to the Pardon
Attorney’s recommendation or the submission of the U.S.
Attorney in Minnesota. In his submission, U.S. Attorney Todd
Jones explained that Vignali was involved in a far larger
network of drug dealing than that which was alleged in the case
against Vignali in Minnesota. As former U.S. Attorney Todd
Jones noted in an interview with the Committee, “the fact the
Vignali was convicted as a Category 1 dope dealer doesn’t mean
that he’s innocent, just that he was smart.” \348\
—————————————————————————
\348\ Telephone Interview with Todd Jones, Partner, Greene Espel
(May 2, 2001).
—————————————————————————
“Vignali’s sentence was disproportionate in comparison to
his co-conspirators.” In testimony before the Committee and in
various public statements, the White House has argued that the
leniency granted to similarly situated codefendants provided a
basis for the President’s grant of clemency to Carlos Vignali.
This position is wholly without merit. A number of Carlos
Vignali’s co-conspirators received leniency because they,
unlike Vignali, cooperated with law enforcement. Vignali, on
the other hand, took his chances with the jury and lost,
receiving 175 months in prison. A brief review of the sentences
given to other major defendants in the Vignali case
demonstrates that Vignali’s sentence was fair and
proportionate.

Gerald Williams: Williams was convicted of
conspiring to distribute cocaine. Judge Doty found that he was
the main distributor, organizer, and leader of the drug
conspiracy. The government recommended an imprisonment term of
360 months to life, but Williams received a sentence of 120
months. Judge Doty departed from guideline range because of
“substantial and valuable assistance” Williams provided to
law enforcement in breaking up the distribution ring.

Dale Evans: Evans was convicted of conspiring to
distribute cocaine. Evans was a California source to
distributors in Minnesota. At trial, Evans testified that he
was sending an average of one to two kilos of cocaine to
Minnesota per week during 1993. Evans obtained that cocaine
from Jonathan Gray and Vignali. The government recommended an
imprisonment term of 135-168 months, but Evans received a
sentence of 95 months. Judge Doty departed from the guideline
range because Evans provided law enforcement with “substantial
and valuable” assistance in breaking up the ring.

Shirley Williams: Williams was convicted of
conspiring to distribute between 15 and 50 kilos of cocaine for
finding buyers of cocaine for her son, Gerald. The government
recommended a 151-188 month term of imprisonment, but Judge
Doty sentenced Williams to 75 months in jail. Judge Doty
ordered a downward departure because of the substantial
assistance Williams provided law enforcement.

Melvin Campbell: Melvin Campbell was convicted of
using a telephone to conspire in selling cocaine. Campbell was
another California source to distributors in Minnesota. He
distributed large amounts of cocaine and cocaine paste with
Shirley and Gerald Williams and cooked crack for distribution.
The government recommended imprisonment for 12-18 months, but
Judge Doty sentenced Campbell to 48 months. He ordered an
upward departure because of Campbell’s significant involvement
in the conspiracy, the substantial amount of drugs he
distributed, and his criminal history.

Jonathan Gray: Jonathan Gray was convicted of
conspiring to distribute more than 5 kilos of cocaine. In 1993,
Gray and Vignali supplied cocaine from California to Dale Evans
in Minnesota. The government recommended 151-188 months in
jail, and Judge Doty sentenced Gray to 170 months. Gray was the
defendant most similarly situated to Vignali as he was a
California source of cocaine for the Minnesota distribution
network and refused to cooperate with law enforcement. Gray’s
sentence was almost identical to Vignali’s.

Tony Speank: Tony Speank was convicted of conspiring
to manufacture and distribute between 1.5 and 5 kilos of
cocaine and cocaine base. The government recommended a sentence
of 210-262 months, but Judge Doty sentenced Speank to 58
months. Judge Doty granted a downward departure because of the
“substantial and valuable” assistance Speank provided law
enforcement.

Todd Hopson: Todd Hopson was convicted of conspiring
to distribute cocaine; using facilities in interstate commerce
to promote a drug enterprise; possession with intent to
distribute and distribution of more than 5 kilos of cocaine;
and use of telephone for promotion of drug enterprise. The
government recommended 235-293 months in jail. Judge Doty
sentenced Hopson to 235 months imprisonment. Judge Doty found
that the low end of the range adequately reflected the nature
and circumstances of Hopson’s offense and his past criminal
conduct.

As shown above, in those cases where Judge Doty exercised
leniency in sentencing codefendants who were at least as
culpable as was Vignali, Judge Doty specifically found that
each of those codefendants provided “substantial and
valuable” assistance to law enforcement. By contrast, Carlos
Vignali and Todd Hopson, both of whom were charged with
conspiring to distribute substantial amounts of cocaine and
various other federal narcotics offenses, chose not to
cooperate. Furthermore, they failed to express the least
remorse about or assume responsibility for their roles in the
distribution ring. As such, there could have been no reasonable
expectation of leniency from the sentencing judge. Accordingly,
the White House’s position that Vignali’s sentence was overly
harsh or disproportionate as compared with his codefendants is
wholly without merit. Having thoroughly considered the
available evidence, Judge Doty sentenced Vignali under the
applicable standards set forth under the law.
“Vignali’s sentence was an unfair and overly harsh result
of mandatory minimum sentencing laws.” Although the rationale
for President Clinton’s commutation of Carlos Vignali’s
sentence remains unclear, the former president has said he
believes mandatory sentences “in many cases are too long for
nonviolent offenders.” \349\ Documents and statements obtained
by the Committee indicate that the White House considered
Vignali’s petition together with a number of other drug cases
in which the defendant had been “oversentenced.” \350\
Associate White House Counsel Meredith Cabe, who was
responsible for clemency matters for the White House Counsel’s
Office, recalled that others in that group were Lau Ching Chin,
Derek Curry, Peter Ninemire, and Loretta DeAnn Kaufman.\351\
Cabe’s appreciation that Vignali’s petition was considered as a
“mandatory minimum” case is borne out by a chart of potential
pardons and commutations maintained by Associate White House
Counsel Eric Angel, who worked with Cabe on clemency
matters.\352

U.S. District Judge David Doty, who sentenced Vignali, has
long been a critic of mandatory federal sentencing guidelines
for drug offenses.\353\ In Judge Doty’s view, “most drug
sentences are exceedingly long and onerous.” \354\ But, in
Vignali’s case, Judge Doty felt that “Carlos deserved what he
got.” \355\ In explaining the sentence he imposed on Vignali,
Judge Doty stated, “I based the sentence on his criminal
history score–he didn’t have much. And I kicked it up because
of the amount of drugs involved.” \356\ According to Doty, the
sentence he imposed was slightly more than the midpoint of the
guideline range.\357\ Doty observed, “I hit him in the middle,
not in the low end. And I didn’t max him out.” \358\
—————————————————————————
\353\ Bob von Sternberg and Pam Louwagie, Judge Who Sentenced
Dealer in Minnesota Questions Clemency; Clinton Commuted Cocaine
Supplier Carlos Vignali’s Sentence, Star Trib. (Minneapolis, MN) Feb.
15, 2001.
\354\ Id.
\355\ Id.
\356\ Id.
\357\ Id.
\358\ Id.
—————————————————————————

D. The Aftermath of the Vignali Commutation

1. The Response from Hugh Rodham
The Vignali commutation proved to be almost as
controversial as the Marc Rich and Pincus Green pardons. News
of Hugh Rodham’s involvement in the Vignali matter first
surfaced around February 21, 2001. Former President Clinton
issued a statement indicating that he and former First Lady
Hillary Rodham Clinton were unaware that Hugh Rodham had been
paid for his work on the Vignali and Braswell matters:
“Neither Hillary nor I had any knowledge of such payments . .
. We are deeply disturbed by these reports and have insisted
that Hugh return any monies received.” \359\ Hillary Clinton
added, “I was very disturbed to learn that my brother, Hugh
Rodham, received fees in connection with two clemency
applications[.] Hugh did not speak with me about these
applications.” \360\ Rodham responded to the statement from
the former President and Senator Clinton with a statement from
his own attorney, Nancy Luque:
—————————————————————————
\359\ James V. Grimaldi and Peter Slevin, Hillary Clinton’s Brother
Was Paid for Role in 2 Pardons, Wash. Post (Feb. 22, 2001) at A1.
\360\ Id.

My client, Hugh Rodham, today acceded to his family’s
request that he return legal fees earned in connection
with pardon requests. My client did not advise
President or Senator Clinton of his involvement in
these requests. He believes they were unaware until
this week of his work on his client’s behalf. Hugh
Rodham has done absolutely nothing wrong. He has
returned these fees solely because his family asked
that he do so. Their request, presumably made because
of the appearance of impropriety, is one he cannot
ignore. There was, however, no impropriety in these
matters.\361\
—————————————————————————
\361\ Statement by Nancy Luque, Counsel for Hugh Rodham, Reed Smith
(Feb. 21, 2001).

Luque’s initial statement suggested that Rodham returned all of
the fees he was paid for obtaining the Braswell pardon and the
Vignali commutation. She soon backtracked, and conceded to the
press that he had returned only $300,000 of the fees.\362\ The
press still reported that Rodham had agreed to refund all
$434,000 he was paid by Braswell and Vignali.\363\
—————————————————————————
\362\ David Johnston, Hollywood Friend Had Clinton’s Ear for 2 Late
Pardons, N.Y. Times, (Feb. 24, 2001) at A8.
\363\ Id.
—————————————————————————
However, the Committee’s review of Rodham’s bank records
shows that as of June 2001 Rodham had returned only $280,000 of
the $434,000 he was paid for his work on the Vignali and
Braswell matters. On February 21, 2001, Rodham wrote checks for
$230,000 and $50,000 to the Coale, Cooley, Leitz, McInerny law
firm.\364\ It appears that the funds were then forwarded by the
Coale, Cooley firm to Reed Smith, Nancy Luque’s law firm. Then,
on February 23, 2001, Reed Smith issued a check for $230,000 to
Glenn Braswell \365\ and a check for $50,000 to Morvis Corvis
Corporation, one of Horacio Vignali’s companies.\366\ When
Luque forwarded the $50,000 to Vignali, she stated that “a
check for the balance will be forwarded directly.” \367\
Communications between Committee staff and Rodham’s attorney
have confirmed that Rodham has not to date returned any
additional amounts and has no plans to return the remaining
$154,000 to Vignali.\368\
—————————————————————————
\364\ First Union Document Production (Check numbers 1321 and 1322
from Rodham & Fine, P.A. IOTA [sic] to Coale, Cooley Liets, McInerny &
Broadus, for $230,000.00 and $50,000, respectively) (Feb. 28, 2001))
(Exhibit 41) (in globo). John P. Coale, a name partner in Coale Cooley,
is a well-known personal injury lawyer with strong ties to the Clinton
Administration.
\365\ Reed Smith Document Production (Check from Reed Smith to
Glenn Braswell for $230,000 (Feb. 23, 2001)) (Exhibit 42).
\366\ Reed Smith Document Production (Check from Reed Smith to
Morvis Corvis Corporation for $50,000 (Feb. 23, 2001)) (Exhibit 43).
\367\ Letter from Nancy Luque, Partner, Reed Smith, to Carlos
Vignali, Morris [sic] Corvis Corp. (Feb. 21, 2001) (Exhibit 44).
\368\ In her discussions with Committee staff, Luque indicated that
she advised against refunding any of the money and that Rodham did so
against her advice. It is also interesting to note that Roger Clinton
believes that Hugh Rodham should not have been forced to return the
money:

GAnyway, Huey [Rodham] has been sort of hung out to dry,
and I want to make that clear. He is a great man. I love
him. He didn’t do anything wrong. But he was just tired of
the crap. And tired of the hounding, and he did what he
thought it was going to take to get rid of it. You know
what? He is a lawyer, he was entitled to do what he wanted
—————————————————————————
to do.

Larry King Live, CNN, June 21, 2001.

Roger Clinton has an interesting point insofar as Hugh Rodham was asked
to return $434,000 he earned lobbying for executive clemency when Roger
was not asked to return any of the money he earned in connection with
the Gambino matter and Jack Quinn was not asked to return fees he
earned in connection with the Marc Rich matter.
Therefore, it appears that Rodham misled the public when he
suggested he returned all of the fees when he, in fact, ignored
the request from former President Clinton and Senator Clinton
that he do so. The lack of any further demands from former
President Clinton and Senator Clinton that Rodham return the
fees suggests that their initial demand was motivated by media
pressure, rather than a genuine sentiment that Hugh Rodham
should return the funds.
2. The Florida Bar’s “Investigation” of Hugh Rodham
Shortly after news of Rodham’s role in the Vignali and
Braswell grants of clemency came to light, a complaint was
filed against Rodham with the Florida Bar Association. The
Florida Bar rules, like those of most other states, prohibit
excessive fees and the receipt of contingent fees in criminal
cases. Rule 4-1.5(a)(1) states that “[a]n attorney shall not
enter into an agreement for, charge, or collect an illegal,
prohibited or clearly excessive fee.” \369\ Rule 4-
1.5(f)(3)(B) states that a “lawyer shall not enter into an
agreement for, charge, or collect . . . a contingent fee for
representing a defendant in a criminal case.” \370\
—————————————————————————
\369\ Rule 4-1.5(a)(1), Rules Regulating the Florida Bar.
\370\ Rule 4-1.5(f)(3)(B), Rules Regulating the Florida Bar.
—————————————————————————
The facts of the Rodham case not being in dispute, it seems
that the one issue examined by the Florida Bar was whether
Rodham’s work constituted “representing a defendant in a
criminal case.” Indeed, there is mixed opinion regarding how
Rodham’s work on the pardons should be characterized. Jack
Quinn took the position that his lobbying for Marc Rich’s
pardon did constitute representation in a criminal case and
that is why he met the exemption in Executive Order 12834,
which otherwise would have prohibited him from lobbying his
former colleagues in the White House Counsel’s Office. If
Quinn’s reasoning were to prevail in the Rodham case, it seems
clear that Rodham would have violated the Florida Bar Rules
against receiving contingent fees in a criminal case. On the
other hand, Federal District Court Judge Denny Chin rejected
the claims of Jack Quinn and the other Marc Rich lawyers that
their work lobbying for the pardons of Rich and Pincus Green
were protected by the attorney-client privilege and attorney
work product protection. Judge Chin ruled that their work
lobbying for a pardon could not be considered legal work
entitled to the attorney-client privilege or work product
protection.\371\ If Judge Chin’s ruling were to be followed by
the Florida Bar, it is less likely that Rodham could be
sanctioned for violating the Florida Bar rules. However, it is
still possible that he could be punished for charging an
excessive fee in relation to the amount of work he performed on
the pardons.
—————————————————————————
\371\ In re Grand Jury Subpoenas (No. M11-189 (DC)) (S.D.N.Y. Mar.
9, 2001).
—————————————————————————
Rather than conducting a serious inquiry into the facts or
the law, it appears that the Florida Bar has declined to look
into the Rodham matter at all. On July 16, 2001, the Florida
Bar grievance committee voted unanimously to close the Rodham
case. In its letter closing the case, the Florida Bar described
its investigation and reasons for closing the case. It appears
that the investigation consisted solely of reading press
accounts of Rodham’s involvement in lobbying for pardons and
requesting a written response to the allegations from Rodham’s
counsel.
The Florida Bar considered first whether Rodham’s fees were
improper and ruled that they were not for two main reasons.
First, it determined that the clemency process was not a
judicial proceeding. Contingent fees are prohibited in criminal
cases, largely because the “right to competent counsel should
not be tied to the compensation paid to the attorney.” \372\
However, the Florida Bar concluded that “clemency is different
from other post-conviction avenues of appeal. It cannot be said
that, based on existing rules and ethics opinions, accepting a
contingency fee for assistance in a clemency proceeding is
improper per se.” \373\ Second, it determined that Rodham’s
fees could not be characterized as “excessive,” despite the
fact that he was paid $434,000 for minimal work. The Bar
Committee concluded that “it would be highly unusual for The
Florida Bar to become involved in a determination of
reasonableness of attorney’s fees in the absence of a complaint
of an interested party, one who actually suffered harm
directly. We may consider doing so when a compelling public
interest arises . . . [We] did not find a compelling public
interest in the matters involved.” \374\
—————————————————————————
\372\ Letter from Barry W. Rigby, Chief Branch Disciplinary
Counsel, The Florida Bar, to J. Christian Adams, Counsel, Adams Law
Firm (July 16, 2001) (Exhibit 45).
\373\ Id.
\374\ Id.
—————————————————————————
Second, the Florida Bar considered whether Rodham engaged
in dishonest conduct in his efforts to obtain the Vignali and
Braswell grants of clemency. The Florida Bar concluded:

There has been no evidence presented or made available
to The Florida Bar: 1) that Mr. Rodham violated rules
or procedures relating to the pardons in question; 2)
that monies were intended as improper payment to
persons involved in the pardon process; or 3) that
there was any other deceit or dishonesty on his
part.\375\
—————————————————————————
\375\ Id.

The Bar then noted that it had attempted to obtain information
about Rodham from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern
District of New York but was declined.\376\ At no time did the
Florida Bar approach this Committee seeking information about
Rodham, which would have been shared readily with the Bar.
—————————————————————————
\376\ Id.
—————————————————————————
As this report has made clear, Hugh Rodham engaged in
dishonest conduct on a number of occasions with respect to his
work on the Vignali commutation. Rodham passed on misleading
information to the White House, he made misleading arguments to
White House staff about Vignali’s case for clemency, and he
told outright lies to White House staff, for example, that the
attorney who prosecuted Vignali supported his commutation. The
Florida Bar should review this report and take appropriate
action against Rodham.
3. The Message Sent by the Vignali Commutation
The Vignali commutation will have two practical
consequences. First, Carlos Vignali has been released from
prison approximately nine years ahead of schedule. There is no
evidence that Vignali is reformed or that he has in any way
changed his life since being convicted. He has never admitted
his guilt, he has never cooperated with law enforcement, and he
has never admitted that he did anything wrong.
However, the Vignali commutation has a significance beyond
the early release from prison of an unrepentant cocaine dealer.
With his commutation, President Clinton sent a message that
there is a double standard of justice between the rich and the
poor. Twenty-eight other people were convicted along with
Vignali for participating in the cocaine distribution ring.
Carlos Vignali was the only person in that distribution ring to
receive executive clemency. Yet, other participants in the
conspiracy received stiffer prison sentences, despite the fact
that they served more minor roles in the conspiracy than
Vignali. For example, Todd Hopson was sentenced to over 19
years in prison and is still in prison today. While Hopson was
clearly guilty, police have stated that his sentence was
excessive.\377\ After Vignali received his commutation, Hopson
observed, “I didn’t pay anybody, I didn’t have anybody walk my
application up to the White House and put it in front of the
President. I didn’t have those connections.” \378\ Even Todd
Hopson, a convicted cocaine dealer, can understand the message
sent by President Clinton: if you can afford to hire the right
person–especially a relative of the President–you can get out
of prison, even if you are clearly guilty of a serious crime.
—————————————————————————
\377\ Fox Special Report with Brit Hume (Feb. 27, 2001).
\378\ Richard A. Serrano and Stephen Braun, Working the American
System, L.A. Times, Apr. 29, 2001, at L.A. Times Mag. 10.
—————————————————————————
The Vignali commutation also sent a message to the nation’s
law enforcement officers. Many law enforcement officers risk
their lives on a daily basis to stem the flow of illegal drugs
into our neighborhoods. Indeed, Carlos Vignali and his 28 co-
conspirators were apprehended only after a painstaking
investigation that included wiretaps and undercover
surveillance. When one of the ringleaders of a cocaine
distribution ring receives executive clemency solely because he
hired the president’s brother-in-law to represent him, it mocks
the efforts of law enforcement and indicates a dangerously lax
attitude towards fighting the war on drugs. Tony Adams, the
Minneapolis narcotics detective who played a key role in
apprehending Vignali and who has risked his life in the line of
duty,\379\ understood the significance of President Clinton’s
actions. Adams observed that “it’s like, basically, you’ve
just been told that this kid, he’s untouchable.” \380\ Adams
stated that the Vignali commutation “more or less tells us
that America’s system has been bought if you have money.”
\381\ The bitterness of Adams, and presumably a number of other
law enforcement officers, is clear in Adams’ statement that
“politicians always get in front of this camera and say
“We’re trying to take dope off the streets. We’re trying to
put dope dealers in jail.” Well, you just let one out, a big
one.” \382\ Adams suggested that “the politicians in L.A. or
Washington, D.C., should finish the nine years that he has left
on his time, and I’m standing right by that.” \383\
—————————————————————————
\379\ The danger of Adams’ work is underscored by the fact that on
April 20, 2001, he was shot at by a suspect. Adams was unharmed. David
Chanen, Man Fires at Officer, But Nobody is Hurt, Star Trib., Apr. 20,
2001, at 9B.
\380\ Richard A. Serrano and Stephen Braun, Working the American
System, L.A. Times, Apr. 29, 2001, at L.A. Times Mag. 10.
\381\ Fox Special Report with Brit Hume (Feb. 27, 2001).
\382\ ABC World News Now (Feb. 23, 2001). See also Duncan DeVille
Document Production (Letter from Duncan DeVille, Assistant U.S.
Attorney for the Central District of California, Department of Justice,
to Alejandro Mayorkas, U.S. Attorney for the Central District of
California, Department of Justice (Mar. 2, 2001)) (Exhibit 46) (citing
Mayorkas’ assistance in the Vignali matter as the basis for
resignation).
\383\ Fox Special Report with Brit Hume (Feb. 23, 2001).
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