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Thursday, 22 February, 2001, 14:44 GMT
Clinton pardons: Cast of characters
Bill Clinton's televised farewell address
Mr Clinton's farewell was not the end of the story
As the outcry continues over pardons granted by Bill Clinton on his last day in office, BBC News Online provides a guide to the key players in the pardoner's tale:

The pardoner

Bill Clinton, universally hailed as the most brilliant American political operator of his generation, has spent nearly as much of his career in the public eye for bad reasons as for good. Some say that his need to remain centre stage at all costs is behind his seemingly inexplicable series of public relations blunders, while others argue that Mr Clinton has a naive streak that enables people to manipulate him.

He was busy negotiating his own immunity from prosecution in his final hours in the White House, which might have made it hard for him to concentrate on other matters - but his 11th-hour pardon of 140 people and the reduction in sentence of another 36 is unprecedented in modern political history, and Democrats and Republicans alike are demanding an explanation for some of them.

The pardoned

Marc Rich,
Marc Rich
Marc Rich fled the US in 1983
the billionaire commodities trader, is said to have lobbied hard for his pardon via a network of high-powered associates in the US, Israel and Switzerland. Jewish and Israeli leaders put in good words on his behalf, and Mr Clinton defended his pardon partially on the grounds that Mr Rich's charitable contributions in the Middle East had aided the peace process. In 1983, the financier fled to Switzerland to avoid prosecution on 51 counts of tax evasion, fraud and violating a US trade embargo with Iran.

Carlos Vignali, 30, had his 15-year sentence for conspiracy to sell cocaine reduced to time served, and walked free on Mr Clinton's last day in office. His father, Horacio, is a rich and powerful leader in the Los Angeles Hispanic community who has made large donations to the Democratic party. A number of high-profile Los Angeles figures, including the archbishop, the man who is now sherrif and two current mayoral candidates appealed for clemency for Vignali, but several have now said they should not have done so.

Almon Glenn Braswell, a Miami-based businessman, was convicted in 1983 of fraud and perjury in connection with a mail-order treatment for baldness he sold. Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles, where his business is based, were stunned by the pardon because it could throw a spanner into the works of the current investigation of Braswell on new charges. Mr Clinton said he was not aware that Braswell was facing a new investigation, and that his pardon was only intended to apply to the 1983 conviction. Braswell's lawyers argue it applies to the present circumstances as well, but LA prosecutors say they will proceed with their investigation anyway.

Roger Clinton,
Roger Clinton, Bill Clinton's younger half-brother
Roger Clinton has been arrested on new charges
the former president's younger half-brother, was pardoned for a 1985 cocaine-related offence. Roger Clinton pleaded guilty to the charge and served more than a year in prison. The presidential pardon erases his criminal record - but he was arrested and charged with drink driving in California a month after the pardon. He also faces a charge of disturbing the peace for allegedly challenging a nightclub doorman to a fight.

Other players

Senator Hillary Clinton,
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton
Hillary Clinton is distancing herself from the pardons
the former president's wife, was elected to the Senate in November, making history as the first former First Lady to win national office. Widely assumed to have presidential ambitions of her own, Senator Clinton has worked to distance herself from her husband's problems, referring questions about pardons to "the president and his staff". Opinions are divided as to whether she is a victim of Bill Clinton's political and personal shenanigans or an essential part of them.

Hugh Rodham,
Hugh Rodham, Bill Clinton's brother-in law
Hugh Rodham has returned nearly $400,000
Hillary Clinton's younger brother and a Miami lawyer, accepted nearly $400,000 from Braswell and the Vignali family to act on their behalf. When news of the payments became public, he returned the money at the Clintons' insistence. Bill Clinton denied knowing Mr Rodham had taken money for the clemency work, but not having discussed the cases with him. Senator Clinton denied any involvement in the pardons whatsoever.

Mary Jo White,
Mary Jo White, US Attorney for New York
Mary Jo White pushed hard for an investigation
the United States attorney in New York, was reported to have been furious that her office was not consulted about the Marc Rich pardon. It was her predecessor - Rudolph Giuliani, now the mayor of New York City - who brought charges against Mr Rich in 1983. Ms White convinced the Justice Department to allow her to open a preliminary criminal investigation into the pardon, in an effort to discover a "quid pro quo" cash-for-pardon deal. She is coordinating her investigation with the Justice Department.

The BBC's Philippa Thomas
"Many democrats are wishing they could wash their hands of the Clintons"
See also:

21 Feb 01 | Americas
Carter blasts Rich pardon
18 Feb 01 | Americas
Clinton defends controversial pardon
15 Feb 01 | Americas
Clinton faces criminal inquiry
14 Feb 01 | Americas
Senate probes Clinton pardons
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