Denied shot at pardon and shot at shooting

Meeteetse man, guilty of wire fraud, wants firearms rights back
2009-03-07T23:00:00Z Denied shot at pardon and shot at shootingRUFFIN PREVOST Of the Gazette Wyoming Bureau The Billings Gazette

CODY - Of the more than 14,000 new and pending requests for executive clemency reviewed over the past eight years, former President George W. Bush granted only three for Wyoming convictions.

Charles C. Rumsey's request was not one of them.

"Yes, I'm disappointed. But it's not surprising," said Rumsey, 72, a longtime Meeteetse resident, an attorney and an investor in oil and gas ventures and fine art.

"They bother to look at very few of them, and the Bush administration didn't look at much in the last year," he said.

Through the Freedom of Information Act, The Gazette obtained 12 pages of documents related to Rumsey's application for a presidential pardon. But as is the case with nearly all such applicants, much of his file was not released, based on policies of the Office of the Pardon Attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice.

The documents show a March 1997 guilty plea to one federal felony count of wire fraud and aiding and abetting, related to a January 1993 incident.

"I bought some fraudulent airline tickets, which I did not know were fraudulent at the time," Rumsey said.

"A lot of my friends were buying them from a guy I never met, and some girl I knew said you could get these cheap tickets," he said.

Rumsey said he bought the bogus tickets from a seller in Louisiana and picked them up at airline counters.

Rather than face the burden and expense of a protracted federal trial in Louisiana, Rumsey said, he decided to plead guilty and pay restitution.

Court documents state that Rumsey paid a $4,000 fine and was placed on one year of supervised probation after being granted a reduced sentence for providing "substantial assistance" to prosecutors.

He was represented in the criminal case by attorney William L. Simpson, and in his pardon request by Colin M. Simpson, according to documents obtained from Pardon Attorney Ronald L. Rodgers. The men are brothers and partners in a Cody law firm; Colin Simpson is speaker of the Wyoming House of Representatives.

Rumsey said he was advised by his attorney to plead guilty "just to get it cleared up," and he later sought a pardon for the same reason.

"I thought it was a very minor offense compared to everything else going on," he said.

"I mean, how many of these guys that run big Wall Street firms have lied to the public?" he said.

Guns and hunting

Rumsey said he also wanted to restore his right to own a firearm - stripped by his felony conviction - so that he can hunt. (He also is denied entry into Canada because of his criminal record.)

"It would be nice to clear up the loose ends, but that doesn't seem to have happened," he said, adding that he would have to consult with his attorney to decide what to do next.

P.S. Ruckman, a pardon expert and professor of political science at Rock Valley College in Illinois, said that many of those who seek presidential pardons do so because they want to be able to own a gun and hunt.

"If you're convicted of a felony, you can't own a gun or serve on a jury or vote. You can't run for public office, and there are other collateral consequences," he said.

"But it is kind of interesting that the thing you seem to hear about most from people is that they want to own a firearm so they can go hunting," he said.

Ruckman said that unless Rumsey's request was specifically rejected by Bush, it would remain pending for consideration by President Barack Obama.

Seeking restoration of civil rights through presidential pardons has become more common over the past 60 years, Ruckman said, adding that the pardon power was previously used more to commute sentences.

The U.S. Constitution states that the president "shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment."

Ruckman said that presidential pardons peaked in the early 1900s, when the process was used as a routine function of criminal justice housekeeping.

After Harry Truman granted a handful of pardons to individuals who had not applied for them, Dwight Eisenhower took up the issue, pledging greater transparency, Ruckman said, but the process remains cloaked in secrecy.

Modern presidents have delegated the process to deputy attorneys general and have typically issued pardons near the end of their terms, offering no explanations or justifications, he said.

"The process was more transparent in the early 1900s than it is right now. Back then, the annual report of the attorney general listed every person pardoned … and had remarks from the attorney general or president explaining the reason why," he said.

Character references

Applicants submit three character affidavits, which are not released for public review, said Rodgers, the federal pardon attorney.

All correspondence from public officials is released, as are unsolicited comments, although names of private individuals making comment are redacted, Rodgers said in an e-mail. No such affidavits or unsolicited correspondence in Rumsey's case were released to The Gazette.

Though media reports often focus on wealthy and powerful individuals who receive pardons, Ruckman said that most successful applicants are neither.

"For every rich person I can think of historically who got a pardon, I can think of a rich person who applied, but didn't get a pardon," he said.

Rumsey's grandfather was a well-known sculptor from a wealthy and politically connected family.

According to public documents on file with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Rumsey is a graduate of Harvard Law School and "has been a significant investor in several new oil companies, some of which became publicly traded."

He is the founder of Sunshine Pacific Corp., a privately held oil company, and "has a well-established network of contacts on Wall Street," the filing states.

Public documents available from the Federal Election Commission show that Rumsey made $10,700 in political contributions over the past four years, split about evenly between Democratic and Republican candidates and groups. He made no direct contributions to Bush.

Ruckman said that, as with fame, notable political contributions are often the high-profile exceptions among pardon applications, adding that there appears to be little long-term data to suggest that most pardons are tied to partisan donations.

"But it can be debated, because up in the big-money areas, those people donate to everybody on both sides anyway," he said.

Contact Ruffin Prevost at rprevost@billingsgazette.com or 307-527-7250.

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