President Trump today issued a pardon to conservative gadfly Dinesh D’Souza. D’Souza was convicted of a felony in 2014 in a donation bundling scandal when a friend of his was running for the Senate from New York and he contributed $20,000.00 to her campaign. (As liberal Harvard Professor of Law Alan Dershowitz noted at the time: “charging him with a felony for this doesn’t sound like a proper exercise of prosecutorial discretion…. I can’t help but think that [D’Souza’s] politics have something to do with it…. It smacks of selective prosecution.”) When a House committee subpoenaed the criminal prosecution file of D’Souza during the Obama administration, the Department of Justice refused to turn it over. D’Souza believes that his prosecution was political payback for his prior documentaries attacking Obama, and I think he is correct.
I have spent 35 years at the bar and been involved as a defense attorney, private and appointed, in hundreds of criminal cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, and two cases as a court appointed special prosecutor, and this prosecution stank to highest Heaven. The sum involved is ludicrously small for these types of cases, and D’Souza’s main offense was not setting up a political action committee to properly channel the donation. A US Attorney would not normally waste his time with this type of “small fry” case. The usual procedure would either have the prospective defendant come in for an interview with his attorney for a meeting, scare the hell out of him, and then grandly announce at the end that he is not being prosecuted although he should be, or to file a case as a felony and quickly plea bargain it down to a misdemeanor. Instead, D’Souza had the book thrown at him in the prosecution. When D’Souza decided to plead guilty on the eve of trial, the prosecution wanted to send him, a first offender with no criminal record, to prison for ten to sixteen months. The Judge, Richard M. Berman, sentenced him to eight months of work release in a federal confinement center in San Diego, and five years probation. During his probation D’Souza was also ordered to teach English to immigrants for eight hours each week as community service. The Judge ordered that he receive psychological counseling. In a truly Orwellian turn, the Judge ordered that the psychological counseling continue even though the counselor reported that D’Souza gave no signs of mental illness or depression and did not need psychological counseling.
The Obama administration weaponized the Federal government against its enemies and the prosecution of D’Souza was part of this weaponization. Trump’s pardon sets right the scales of justice in this case.