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Ex-prosecutor calls Clinton pardons irregular

Clinton waves goodbye on his final day as president, January 20, 2001. He pardoned the Gregorys nearly a year before leaving office.
Clinton waves goodbye on his final day as president, January 20, 2001. He pardoned the Gregorys nearly a year before leaving office.  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Clinton did not follow normal procedures when he pardoned a couple convicted of bank fraud who paid his brother-in-law, Tony Rodham, nearly $245,000 to be a consultant, the man who oversaw their prosecution said Saturday.

"Pardons should follow normal procedures and in this case it is clear President Clinton didn't follow that protocol," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, who was a U.S. attorney in Alabama when carnival owner Edgar Allen Gregory and his wife, Vonna Jo, were convicted of bank fraud in 1982.

The Gregorys, who live in Brentwood, Tennessee, own United Shows of America, a company with interests beyond the carnival business, including real estate and musical artists

Their pardons were opposed not only by the federal prosecutors on the case but also by the Justice Department and the sentencing judge, according to a report issued last week by the House Government Reform Committee.

According to the report, the Gregorys put Tony Rodham on their payroll for two and a half years, paid him nearly $245,000 and lent him another $79,000.

While receiving money from the Gregorys, Rodham -- brother of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, who was then first lady -- lobbied Clinton to pardon the couple, the report said.

The Gregorys, who are in their 60s, told committee investigators they paid Rodham for consulting services, but they could not document what work Rodham actually performed for them. Clinton pardoned the couple in March 2000.

"The most valuable thing that Rodham did for the Gregorys was to obtain presidential pardons," the report said. "Therefore, there is a substantial question as to whether the Gregorys paid Rodham for his efforts to obtain presidential pardons for them."

Although the report raised questions of impropriety, it said "there is not sufficient evidence to conclude definitively" that Rodham's payments from the Gregorys were directly linked to the pardons.

Clinton's pardons of the Gregorys were among several that triggered allegations that pardons were improperly given to financial contributors and to people who had paid money to close confidants of the president, including Tony Rodham, his brother, Hugh, and Clinton's brother, Roger.

The circumstances surrounding the pardons, particularly those Clinton issued just before leaving office, are being investigated by the U.S. attorney in New York City and by the House Government Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Dan Burton, R-Indiana, a longtime Clinton critic.

The former president has steadfastly denied that pardons were traded for cash. His supporters have characterized the report issued by Burton's committee as partisan and politically motivated.

According to the report, Rodham met the Gregorys at an event to raise money for Clinton's second term and approached them in 1997 about retaining him to explore new business opportunities.

With the assistance of his sister, Hillary, Rodham helped the Gregorys get contracts to stage carnivals at the White House in 1998 and 2000, the report said.

A federal jury in Mobile, Alabama, convicted the Gregorys of fraud in 1982 in connection with improprieties at two banks they owned.

Part of the conviction was overturned, and in 1986 the case ended when the Gregorys pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and misapplication of bank funds. Both were given probation.

Sessions earlier asked federal prosecutors in New York looking at Clinton's pardons to investigate the pardons given to the Gregorys.

-- CNN Producer Kate Farrell contributed to this report.




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