INDIANAPOLIS, IN—The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of the Pardon Attorney announced presidential pardons for Taft clients, Ed North and Dan Levitz on Friday, May 20, 2011. The two, who have been friends since high school, were convicted in the late 1970s for possession of an unregistered firearm. Taft attorneys Jackie Bennett and Jayna Cacioppo represented the clients pro bono.
In the late 1960s, while North was serving with the Navy Seabees in Vietnam as a petty officer first class, he gave a truck carburetor to an Army soldier and in exchange got an M3A1 submachine gun, known colloquially at the time as a “grease gun.” North brought the gun home as a souvenir and eventually traded it to his friend Levitz for a muzzleloader gun and a set of knives. Levitz later sold the submachine gun to another person.
About seven years after Levitz and North made their trade, the weapon was traced back to the two Indiana men when the gun ended up in the hands of someone who sold it to federal agents during a sting operation.
Levitz and North never denied or contested the charges, and both pled guilty to felony charges. The two were sentenced Aug. 18, 1980, at which time the presiding federal judge, Judge Jesse Eschbach, expressed displeasure with the prosecutions. The government refused the court’s request that the charges be dismissed. Thereafter, North received six months of unsupervised probation for transferring a firearm without paying a transfer tax. Levitz was ordered to serve two years of probation and pay a $400 fine for one count of conspiracy.
Because the convictions were for felonies, North and Levitz were unable possess firearms or to take their sons hunting, as both had done while growing up in Northern Indiana. Several years ago the pair asked Bennett and Cacioppo to help try to get their rights restored. On Friday – 31 years after their sentencing – the two were among eight people pardoned by President Barack Obama. Those pardons will not only restore their rights to hunt with firearms, but will purge their records of the convictions.
Presidential pardons are extremely rare. According to clemency statistics compiled by the Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney, President Obama has granted only 9 pardon petitions out of the 672 received during the first 27 months of his administration.
“We are delighted with this result,” said Bennett, upon learning of the pardons. “For their entire lives, Ed North and Dan Levitz have been law-abiding, honorable citizens who have made many positive contributions to their communities. It is hard to imagine two people more richly deserving of these pardons, and we sincerely thank the president for his action.”
Bennett is a partner in Taft’s business litigation and white collar practice groups. Cacioppo is an associate in Taft’s litigation and environmental practice groups.