California Gov. Jerry Brown has upheld his Christmas Eve tradition by issuing 105 pardons for criminals being held in the California prison system, but one of these pardons was retracted shortly afterwards.
Many of the people who have received pardons have been convicted more than a decade ago of nonviolent drug offenses or charges similar to burglary, according to CBS San Francisco. Brown and his office have said those who were granted a pardon had been previously released without committing additional crimes, and had demonstrated “exemplary behavior” by being productive in their civilian lives.
However, according to the AP, the one pardon which was retracted was supposed to be granted to Glen Carnes. Carnes had been convicted of a drug-related crime in 1998 when he was a teenager, but in 2013, records show he underwent disciplinary actions for providing false statements to investment regulators.
Carnes did not admit guilt to these allegations, rather he signed a settlement with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, agreeing to be barred from further financial investment. While celebrating the holidays with his family, Carnes said he learned about his pardon retraction, and was in disbelief.
“Oh my God. You’ve got to be kidding me,” Carnes said in a phone interview. “I cannot believe this is happening, I’ve waited 20 years for this… This is wrong.”
The pardons do not erase the conviction, rather they restore certain rights to the person. Some of these rights include the ability to further serve on a jury and allowing a person to legally own a firearm if they were not previously convicted of a crime involving a weapon. A previously convicted person also has the chance to work as a probation officer or a parole agent for the state.
WASHINGTON, October 10, 2014–Former firearms instructor and decorated Air Force veteran Timothy Arnold stood for sentencing before Chief Judge Lisa Godbey Wood on October 9, 2014 at the United States District Court of Southern Georgia. Arnold received a sentence of 22 months behind bars and a fine of $168,000 for what many people close to the case believe is the result of a highly unethical investigation without merit.
Advised to not speak in his own defense at the trial, Arnold gave this statement at his Thursday morning sentencing, “I think it is very obvious how much I love this country. During my 20 years in the military, I was given missions and tasks that I did not agree with, but I did them. I do not agree with this guilty verdict, but I believe in this country. I will continue to do the same thing I have always done, and that is live with integrity. Preserving my reputation and my honor means more to me than it probably does to the average person. Now that I have lost my cherished Second Amendment rights, I have also lost the way I make my living. I must focus on protecting and providing for my wife and our little daughter…” Arnold choked up, unable to finish his statement.
As previously reported on BenSwann.com, Arnold’s charges included conversion (embezzlement,) manufacturing firearms, and illegally dealing firearms. According to multiple affidavits by other agents and witnesses, lead investigator Special Agent Wendell Palmer assembled no true elements of crime but broke multiple Air Force Policy Directives. Most damaging to Arnold’s case were the gross misrepresentations the witnesses say Palmer applied to their unsigned statements used during the trial. Palmer also confiscated personal firearms, records, and other property without providing a receipt. When his superior, Colonel Kristine Blackwell, was asked to intervene, she reportedly turned her back and laughed.
Alarmed by this “less than professional” investigation, many fellow agents and members of law enforcement interviewed by Palmer registered official complaints with the Air Force Inspector General (IG) before Arnold’s case went to trial. This information was not disclosed to the judge or the jury. It is unclear whether or not the IG has responded to the complaints of its OSI agents by opening an investigation of its own. One complaint stated, “I am extremely concerned for what I believe to be a misstatement of facts, improper evidence accounting procedures, and unsubstantiated allegations.”
Palmer declared to multiple witnesses during interviews that he believed Arnold was manufacturing fully automatic and silenced weapons and abusing the government credit card to do so. “I did not feel this information was correct, and felt it was inappropriate for Palmer to make such a statement during an ongoing investigation,” said a fellow agent. Another complainant said, “Upon reading Palmer’s documentation of my interview, I wish I had insisted on doing so (providing a written statement) as he took significant liberty with information I provided and did not account for important details I made sure to convey.” In simple terms, it appears Arnold was framed—but for a crime that didn’t exist.
A Congressional inquiry into this matter was originally requested through Rep. Jack Kingston’s (R-GA) office in 2011, but it was Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) who actually opened one this year.
Arnold has 30 days to report to the Bureau of Prisons and begin his sentence. Congress has 30 days to get something done about it.
WASHINGTON, October 6, 2014–Decorated Air Force veteran and firearms expert Timothy Arnold was convicted in the United States District Court of Southern Georgia on January 21 of manufacturing and dealing in firearms without a license, transporting illegally-acquired firearms to a state in which he did not reside, dealing firearms across state lines without a license, and theft of government property by conversion. The prosecution, led by Assistant United States Attorney Fred Kramer, claimed Arnold was running a “black market operation” while he was a well-known firearms instructor with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Brunswick, Georgia. FLETC is part of the Department of Homeland Security and trains law enforcement officers for 91 federal agencies, including the U.S. Park Police and U.S. Marshals Service.
Arnold was employed as Chief of Firearms and Tactics for AFOSI while serving the last few years of his twenty-year career in the Air Force. Upon his retirement in 2009, the Air Force requested that he remain in his position in a civilian capacity and continue to perform all of his duties—tactical instruction, course development, equipment purchasing, and an extensive travel schedule. His activities and purchases were overseen and approved by his direct superiors on a monthly basis, as they had been for years. One thing that did change frequently, however, was the identity of his bosses. Turnover was routine and each department head arrived with very different ideas regarding the nature of their position. Arnold was known for having high expectations for his FLETC students and high standards for his training curriculum. Many witnesses in his trial testified that his training certainly saved lives during operations overseas. They said he was one of the best firearms instructors in the Air Force. Arnold prided himself on creating realistic scenes using costumes and props to simulate real-life scenarios that protective services agents might face in the field. His job required him to buy civilian equipment for those classes—and his superiors pressured him at the end of every fiscal year to spend all remaining funds of his operating budget, that sometimes totaled $120,000. This is common practice in federal agencies whose directors fear a surplus will cut their Congressional funding for future years.
Firearms were not just Arnold’s profession, they were also his lifelong hobby. His expertise garnered countless unsolicited requests from co-workers, members of law enforcement, friends, and family to assemble guns for them. Most of the time, he would advise them as to what parts they should order and then Arnold would assemble them into a working firearm—as a favor or for a trade. “The investigators were not able to find a trail of money from me profiting from my supposed firearms business,” Tim Arnold says, “Because I never made any money off of it. I never claimed to be a business or advertise. I did it for fun and as a favor to people in my life.” However, a jury in a civilian court found Arnold guilty of illegally manufacturing and dealing firearms. Of note, the legal definition of manufacturing implies objects are created from raw material. What Arnold did, and what many other gun enthusiasts in this country do, is actually firearms assembly, a legal endeavor. A few months before the AFOSI investigation into Arnold’s activities began, he was busy working on customizing an AR-15 platform rifle to replace the outdated MP-5 sub-machine guns that protective service officers currently use in the field. “Obtaining new parts to service those military weapons is nearly impossible,” Arnold says, “And a weapon with more maneuverability in tight quarters would reduce training time, as well as cost of replacement parts, saving the Air Force money.” Arnold’s prototype made its way to a training in New Jersey where it was mistaken for an illegal weapon. A review of the investigation itself reads like a comedy of errors, which makes Arnold’s conviction all the more surprising. Lead investigator Special Agent Wendell Palmer directly violated countless Air Force Policy Directives, including the interrogation of a subordinate as part of a criminal investigation, which is a conflict of interests; failing to read Arnold his rights during any of the interrogation sessions; ghostwriting statements from Arnold and all other witnesses; and failure to provide receipts for property, firearms, and records seized from Arnold, other witnesses, and even the Sig Sauer Academy in New Hampshire where Arnold worked as an adjunct instructor while on administrative leave.
Sig Sauer Academy Executive Director Adam Painchaud, also an AFOSI Special Agent, initiated a complaint against Palmer to the Air Force Office of Inspector General. Six witnesses signed separate affidavits detailing accounts of Palmer’s unethical conduct, including the Witness Statements riddled with errors, omissions, and misrepresentations that Palmer wrote himself. Several active OSI Agents offered to provide verbal testimony, afraid of the retaliation that a paper trail might bring. During the trial, Painchaud was slated to be the star witness for the defense. “I had the ability based on my firsthand, expert knowledge of the matters involved to dispute the charges against Arnold,” says Painchaud. Instead, he was prevented from testifying and Judge Lisa Godbey Wood threatened to charge him with contempt of court due to allegations from the prosecution that he inappropriately questioned another witness in the hallway outside the courtroom. “My testimony would have been instrumental,” Painchaud says, “The jury never got to hear it because I never got to testify. This is not how our system is supposed to work.” Painchaud was later cleared of the contempt allegations, as well as conduct unbecoming of an agent, after a separate investigation by AFOSI revealed his innocence.