Granting a selection of inmates clemency is a common practice for outgoing presidents, known as presidential pardons. The last outgoing President, Donald Trump, was no different in this respect, issuing various high-profile pardons in the final weeks of his tenure. One of these people was Philip Esformes, operator of several assisted living facilities, convicted for fraud. Recently, a new controversy has sprung up regarding Mr. Esformes due to the DOJ’s plans to retry him on some counts of fraud.
Who Is Philip Esformes
Philip Esformes had a reputation as a philanthropist and family man. He previously operated a network of assisted care and skilled nursing facilities in South Florida. In the Mid 2010s, allegations of massive healthcare fraud came to light, and in 2019 Mr. Esformes was sentenced to 20 years behind bars. In December of 2019, in his last month in office, President Trump commuted Philipís sentence, allowing him to walk free after only four years behind bars.
With the support of many high-ranking DOJ officials, the outgoing President decided on clemency for Philip Esformes. They argued that serious discrepancies and transgressions in the prosecutorís case against him made the trial invalid. With clemency granted and Mr. Esformes freed in time to host his daughter’s lavish wedding, the matter was assumed settled, and Philip could settle back into family life.
However, the controversy surrounding Philip Esformes and his alleged monetary mismanagement and fraud reignited recently when the Department of Justice announced that they planned to take Mr. Esformes back to court on several counts of fraud. Naturally, this has caused an uproar in some legal circles as presidential clemency is supposed to pardon all charges.†
The problem stems from how President Trump granted clemency in this and other cases. Unlike his predecessors who would word pardons as a blanket commutation of charges, President Trump didnít do this in several instances, including this one. Instead, the pardon only covered the remainder of Mr. Esformes’ prison term, leaving him with the $5 million restitution penalty and terms of supervised release. And most importantly, it made no mention of the six counts that the jury couldnít reach a verdict for.
Itís these six charges that the DOJ plan to retry Philip for, arguing that because they arenít mentioned in the pardon, theyíre legally available for retrial. With the extent of the fraud allegedly committed, the department feels it’s vital to see a resolution to these counts. Mr. Esformes’s supporters argue that this sets a dangerous precedent for overturning and disregarding the established practice of presidential clemency. Further arguments come in the form of stating that this is a retaliatory case against someone who received a pardon from the controversial Republican President.
The courts will determine if the DOJ can legally go ahead with its plans in the coming months. In the meantime, both sides will closely follow the ongoing saga, not so much for the person at the center of the charges but for the ramifications to the established legal process.
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