DOJ Plans To Retry Philip Esformes Despite Presidential Clemency
At the end of his term as President of the USA, Donald Trump granted several high-profile pardons, including disgraced care home operator Philip Esformes. Mr. Esformes had been in federal prison for less than five years of a 20-year sentence for various counts relating to fraud. While many were unhappy with this news, they accepted that he could return to his life in Florida. However, recently the DOJ has brought the case back into the headlines by announcing plans to take Mr. Esformes back to court.
The US Department of Justice has examined the terms of the pardon issued by the previous President to the defendant and determined they have grounds to return to the courtroom. Unlike most presidential pardons, when Pres. Trump wrote the terms of several pardons; he didn’t give them full acquittals of all charges. In the case of Philip, only his remaining jail term was commuted, with the financial restitution penalty and terms of supervised release staying in place. The document also doesn’t mention the six additional charges he was tried for but not sentenced for due to the jury’s inability to reach a verdict.
The DOJ is arguing that the extent of the fraud against the Medicare program (upwards of $1 billion) means they should retry the six hung counts not mentioned on the pardon. The department reasons that because the six counts that the jury returned no verdict on are not mentioned in the commutation, they’re legally free game. As such, Philip Esformes should be retried and, if found guilty, sent back to prison.
However, not everyone is happy with this decision, with supporters of Mr. Esformes crying foul. They believe that the defendant is a pawn in a game of retribution against the ousted President. It’s also feared that if the DOJ is allowed to take Esformes back to court on the previous charges, others who were granted similar pardons will be similarly targeted. Members of this camp argue that the current government will make a mockery of the presidential pardon system, all to show up their opponent.
Intention In The Wording
Prosecutors remain undaunted, however, stating that “the President’s commutation order is expressly limited to the counts of conviction.” They also point out that on the same day Mr. Esformes had his sentence commuted, Trump gave 15 others full and unconditional pardons. Indeed if Mr. Trump meant his clemency to cover the hung counts, he would have given Esformes the same full pardon.
Watch This Space
Whether Philip Esformes will find himself again before a jury for the six charges as previously is yet to be determined. In the coming months, prosecutors from the DOJ and the Reed Smith law firm defence team will go before the eleventh circle court to argue their sides. All eyes will be on the case as it progresses due to the potential ramifications for the legal system and others offered similar pardons. In the meantime, Philip Esformes’ team will work to stay out of a trial, and the DOJ will ensure they have a watertight case should they get their day in court