Lawyers: Trump Phone Call Amounts to a Real Pardon

Jailed hip-hop manager was promised release by last Christmas
By Liz MacGahan,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 8, 2021 4:25 PM CDT
Lawyers: Trump Phone Call Amounts to a Real Pardon
In this June 2011 photo provided by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, DEA agents escort James Rosemond, center, after his arrest on cocaine-dealing charges. Rosemond's family and lawyers say Donald Trump granted him clemency last year.   (AP Photo/DEA, File)

The fact that the previous president didn't approach the office in a traditional way is not news. The family of a jailed hip-hop manager is now banking that despite an unorthodox manner, clemency they say was granted by Donald Trump will be honored by a federal prison in West Virginia. Trump granted pardons and clemency to a long list of celebrities and associates at the end of his presidency. Among them was a promise to James Rosemond, known as Jimmy Henchman, who once managed Akon, Brandy, and Salt-N-Pepa, his family told the Washington Post.

Trump called NFL legend Jim Brown and his wife, Monique, in mid-December 2020, and promised Rosemond would be home by Christmas, which Brown took to mean Trump was agreeing to commute the sentence. Rosemond built a career on a gangster reputation and was sentenced to life in prison in 2013 for drug trafficking, and sentenced to 20 years in 2015 in a murder-for-hire case. That second case took three tries to stick; first the jury deadlocked, then the conviction was overturned.

But Trump apparently never wrote anything down on paper and gave it to the warden of the prison where Rosemond is serving his time. In a habeas corpus petition claiming Rosemond is currently wrongfully imprisoned, Rosemond’s lawyers say Trump called the Browns on Dec. 18 and said, "Let's get this guy home for Christmas," and "I want to do this." The petition argues that "simply by taking a public act that communicates the decision," a president can commute a sentence. It cites incidents in which Abraham Lincoln commuted sentences with scribbled notes or oral declarations.

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Rosemond's lawyers also argue, naturally, that he’s innocent of the charges and the victim of his own overblown reputation. A lawyer hired by the Browns to work on the clemency case, Kimberly Kendall Corral, said it could just be a big misunderstanding and the former president must have just been too busy to write things down. "There was sort of chaos—there was an insurrection, there was a number of things happening which certainly created distractions," Corral said. Rosemond's lawyers are working on the Biden administration to honor the decree, the Post reports. (More Donald Trump stories.)

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