Convicted former Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh is among those seeking clemency from President Donald Trump as he reportedly prepares to issue 100 pardons and sentence commutations on his final full day in office Tuesday.
Pugh, 70, is seeking to have her three-year fraud sentence commuted, according to a database of clemency appeals on the U.S. Department of Justice website. Her case’s status is listed as “pending.”
Her attorney, Steve Silverman, declined to comment Monday.
CNN reported that the White House held a meeting Sunday to finalize a list of pardons and commutations, which the outlet said was expected to include “a mix of criminal justice reform-minded pardons and more controversial ones secured or doled out to political allies.”
A pardon allows someone to wipe their record clean; a commutation is when a sentence is cut short.
Former Baltimore Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris, who is currently a radio host for 105.7 The Fan, also is seeking clemency. Norris spent six months in prison after pleading guilty in 2004 to federal corruption and tax charges. Norris has long maintained that the case was politically motivated and that his plea was coerced, and his pending request seeks a pardon.
Norris could not be reached for comment Monday evening.
In addition, Thomas Allers, a former Baltimore Police sergeant who was convicted in the Gun Trace Task Force scandal, is seeking a commutation of his sentence. Allers is serving a 15-year sentence for racketeering charges, which was served in 2018. Allers once led the corrupt squad, and pleaded guilty to nine robberies on the job. Prosecutors said his complicity in the task force’s misconduct allowed it to flourish.
Pugh held elected positions at the city and state level for two decades. Elected Baltimore mayor in 2016, she pleaded guilty three years later to charges related to a fraud scheme involving her self-published “Healthy Holly” children’s book series.
She failed to print thousands of copies, double-sold thousands more and took many others to use for self-promotion, according to federal prosecutors. Investigators also uncovered that she laundered illegal campaign contributions and failed to pay taxes.
Pugh, a Democrat, showed deference to Trump, a Republican, at the start of her term in December 2016. She had pledged that one of her first acts as Baltimore’s leader would be to write a letter to Trump, and she hand-delivered it to the president-elect during the Army-Navy game at M&T Bank stadium along with a Baltimore pin. The letter asked for infrastructure funding.
“When he stepped out of his vehicle, I was the only elected official there,” she recalled at the time. “He walked over to me and I said, ‘I am the mayor of Baltimore,’ and he said, ‘I know.’”
Trump would go on to denounce the city in July 2019 while attacking the late Elijah Cummings, the Baltimore congressman who chaired the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
The president called Cummings’ district “disgusting, rat and rodent infested,” and later urged the oversight committee to investigate “corrupt government” in Baltimore. Trump said he would personally get involved to help if asked by city residents, who he said were “living in hell.”
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She later resigned from the medical system board and as mayor amid several investigations into her finances and the book sales. In total, she netted more than $850,000, prosecutors say.
Pugh reported to an Alabama federal prison in June last year to begin serving her sentence. The prison has reported 62 inmates with positive COVID-19 tests during the pandemic, while many other facilities have hundreds of inmates who have tested positive. There are currently 11 inmates and eight staff members there with active COVID cases, according to data from the Bureau of Prisons.
If her clemency appeal is denied, Pugh has other options for leaving prison before serving her full term, such as the First Step Act, which seeks to reduce the federal prison population.