President Joe Biden on Tuesday (April 26) pardoned Abraham Bolden, a former U.S. Secret Service agent who was the first Black person to serve on a presidential detail, a White House announcement stated.
Bolden, 86, was charged in 1964 and later convicted of trying to sell Secret Service documents.
“He has steadfastly maintained his innocence, arguing that he was targeted for prosecution in retaliation for exposing unprofessional and racist behavior within the U.S. Secret Service,” said the White House statement that lists the names of 78 individuals who were granted clemency.
The White House announcement said Biden’s clemency list included pardons for Bolden and two other people and commutations of prison sentences for 75 people serving long sentences for nonviolent drug offenses.
Bolden’s first trial ended in a hung jury but was convicted at a second trial. Key witnesses at his retrial later said that they gave false testimony against Bolden at the prosecutor’s request, according to the White House. His request for a new trial was rejected, forcing Bolden to serve several years behind bars.
Over the decades, Bolden has spoken out about the racism he faced in the 1960s while working for the agency.
Chicago Sun-Times’ Mary Mitchell wrote about the details of Bolden’s case in a January newspaper column that called for Bolden to be cleared of wrongdoing.
She wrote, “After he complained about agents drinking on the job and showing up unfit for duty and after he threatened to reveal the agency’s shortcomings in protecting the president, he was charged with bribery in a case involving a counterfeiting defendant. After being tried twice, he was convicted in 1966 and was sentenced to six years in federal prison. He served three years and nine months behind bars.”
Bolden, who served on President John F. Kennedy’s detail, previously petitioned three presidents for a pardon, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, according to Mitchell.
A pardon is “an expression of the president’s forgiveness” but doesn’t “signify innocence,” the Justice Department explains. It restores, among other things, the right to vote, hold state or public office, or sit on a jury.
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