Questions about Eric Holder’s nomination as Attorney General have been building over his role as a former deputy attorney general in a number of controversial Clinton-era legal decisions, says the Hartford Courant. High on the list are the dramatic sentence reductions he recommended in 1999 for members of two groups responsible for a years-long terror campaign aimed at Puerto Rican independence. Four of those who received presidential clemency, members of the group Los Macheteros, were convicted of involvement in the $7.2 million armed robbery of a Wells Fargo office in West Hartford in 1983. Half the stolen money wound up with the Cuban government, which had helped train and finance the robbers. Together, the groups are linked to 130 bombings, several murders and as many as a dozen robberies.
Senate staffers said the Puerto Rico clemency is expected to be the subject of considerable questioning. A senior Justice official, while generally supportive of Holder, called the lesser-known Puerto Rico commutations “far more egregious” because they involved terror and appear to have deviated widely from federal regulations and past practices in clemency matters. Groups opposed to the Puerto Rico clemency – the FBI, Federal Bureau of Prisons, bombing victims and the U.S. attorney’s offices in New Haven and Chicago – were either not consulted or ignored. Holder and other top officials met at least nine times with advocates for the prisoners.