Sorry! Humiliated Bush revokes pardon

President humiliated after father of jailed property developer is revealed as recent donor to Republicans
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One of George Bush's final acts as President fell apart in less than 24 hours, when he took the unprecedented step of revoking a pardon granted to a New York property developer who defrauded hundreds of low-income homeowners.

Isaac Robert Toussie, who is at the centre of a long-running real-estate fraud case, was one of 19 people Mr Bush pardoned on Tuesday, striking a sentence for mail fraud and lying to a government department from the record. But on Christmas Eve, the President was forced to reverse the decision, as newspapers revealed that his father had recently donated almost $30,000 to the Republican Party.

Dana Perino, a White House press secretary, told a news conference that the decision to revoke the pardon, which is unheard of in modern history, was "based on information that has subsequently come to light".

She admitted that the pardon had not met Justice Department guidelines, and said neither the White House counsel's office nor the President had been aware of a political contribution by Mr Toussie's father that: "might create an appearance of impropriety".

The New York Daily News had earlier that day revealed that Mr Toussie's father Robert had made his first ever political donation last April, giving $28,500 (£20,000) to the Republican National Committee. His son's application to receive a pardon was filed just four months later.

"It's, at best, embarrassing. At worst, it's an extraordinary example of this White House's ability to bollocks up one bit of presidential authority that he clearly has," Doug Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University and a close follower of presidential clemency decisions, told the Associated Press.

Many individuals who had bought homes from Mr Toussie had expressed outrage at news of his pardon. "The politically connected get what they want, and little people like us are just left to sink or swim," complained one, Maxine Wilson. "Thanks to the President for the worst Christmas gift you could have given us."

But after news of the pardon being revoked, she said felt a sense of justice.

Mr Toussie was sued by hundreds of New York residents in 2001 for masterminding a scheme which lured "inexperienced and low-income, inner-city, minority first-time buyers into purchasing homes that they could not afford".

The homes, in working-class areas of Brooklyn, were overpriced by up to 50 per cent and often defective, and the cost of mortgage payments was hidden.

Beverly Sanchez, whose $150,000 new home was damaged by floods and mould, told reporters: "We wanted the American Dream. We wanted the house, we wanted the white picket fence – and instead, we got nothing but heartache."

According to the lawsuit, the Toussies also cited praise "from black celebrities such as Maya Angelou, Whoopi Goldberg and former Mayor David Dinkins ... none of whom made any such endorsements".

The lawsuit is continuing, but Mr Toussie pleaded guilty in 2001 to using false documents to get mortgages insured by the Department of Housing and Urban Development that inflated the value of properties he was attempting to sell, and received a five- month sentence. In 2002, he pleaded guilty to mail fraud.

Quite how the White House decided to grant its pardon in the first place is unclear. Mr Bush has so far used his pardon sparingly and given the current economic climate, it is unlikely that the President would have signed-off on Mr Toussie's pardon had he known full details of either his father's donations, or the original scam for which he was convicted. The White House statement said its counsel had reviewed the application and believed it to be "meritorious ... based on the information known to him at the time".

Pardoned

*Charlie Winters:

Received a posthumous pardon nearly a quarter of a century after his death. Mr Winters helped ship arms and aircraft to Jews trying to found their own state in the Middle East in 1948. Although long-regarded as a hero by Israelis, he was convicted of violating the US Neutrality Act and was imprisoned for 18 months.

*John Allen Aregood:

Convicted for harbouring unauthorised Mexican immigrants to harvest his watermelons 16 years ago.

Denied

*Michael Milken:

The former "junk bond king" was convicted of racketeering in the 1980s Wall Street insider trading scandal, and has since donated millions to cancer research.

*Marion Jones:

The disgraced US sprinter, pictured, applied for a pardon while serving a six-month prison term for perjury for lying about steroid use and a fraud case.

*John Walker Lindh: The "American Taliban" was sentenced to 20 years in 2002 after admitting to serving with the Taliban.

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