MORGANTOWN – Jan. 20 marked the
beginning of the Trump presidency and the end of a federal clemency initiative
launched in 2014 that freed 1,715 nonviolent inmates but left nearly 3,500
pardon requests pending when the Obama
Bryant Cook, Andre Scales and Richard
Ashbaugh, clients of the Clinical Law Program at West Virginia University
School of Law, were among those inmates who did not receive a response to their
“My guess is that the Obama
administration simply did not get to all of the petitions,” Valena Beety,
associate professor at WVU’s College of Law, recently told The West Virginia Record. “And (clemency) is
not a priority for the new administration, so the petitions are just sitting
there.” The school’s efforts did win early release for Nathaniel Law, who was
granted clemency on Dec. 20.
The law clinic recently began
representing Ashbaugh at the request of the Washington, D.C. attorney who
handled his clemency petition. They asked the law clinic to become Ashbaugh’s
counsel and file a Holloway motion to request resentencing in the West Virginia
circuit court district where he was convicted.
“It really is a Hail Mary,” Beety said.
“We’re making the same argument as the clemency petition that Mr. Ashbaugh is
a nonviolent offender, that he would receive a lesser sentence today.”
a drug addict, was sentenced to a minimum 20 years in prison for selling heroin
to an individual who overdosed. Today, that crime would receive a minimum
sentence of 10 years, which Ashbaugh has already served.
The original prosecutor in Ashbaugh’s case
is not opposing the law clinic’s motion because “Mr. Ashbaugh stepped up
immediately and took responsibility and was very remorseful …” Beety said.
While the Pardon Office of the
Department of Justice (DOJ) accepts clemency petitions on a continuing basis,
announcement of the clemency initiative on April 23, 2014, spurred an “influx of
petitions larger than that received during any previous administration,”
according to the DOJ website.
The law school may consider submitting additional
Holloway motions for other inmates who met the clemency initiative standards,
but whose petitions were never reviewed.
“The bar was set high (for the
initiative) and they met the requirements, so there is the possibility of
success,” Beety said. “They are strong candidates not just for release, but for
success in the community.”