Facing a serious re-election challenge from “Sex and the City” actress Cynthia Nixon, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo accomplished by executive action what he could not accomplish in the state legislature:
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that he was granting conditional pardons to every parolee in the state — 35,000 — to restore their voting rights.
Cuomo, facing a primary challenge from the left from actress and activist Cynthia Nixon, made an end-run around the state Legislature, where Republicans had stymied his effort.
Without analyzing what Cuomo actually did, Nixon wasted no time at all making a political prop out of the executive action…
We don't buy the Governor's new song-and-dance routine. Voter suppression in New York should have ended eight years ago, from the rights of parolees to access to early voting and automatic registration.
— Cynthia Nixon (@CynthiaNixon) April 18, 2018
…but the first question the Free Market Shooter team had was – doesn’t a pardon restore all of a citizen’s rights? Wouldn’t this executive action have the unintended consequence of restoring gun rights to violent convicted felons?
According to WipeRecord.com, that should be the case:
May I legally own a firearm after obtaining a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities or Certificate of Good Conduct?
The general answer is YES. In New York firearm privileges are lost upon conviction of a felony or other “serious offense”. The only way to restore this right is by a pardon, or by a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities or Good Conduct. Firearm rights are effectively restored if restoration language is specifically included in the certificate. However, restoration is not available to those with convictions for Class A-1 and/or violent felonies. While restoration is effective if the language specifically restoring firearm rights is included in the certificate, the person would still have to secure a license to legally possess weapons. The restoration simply lifts the bar disqualifying convicted felons from securing a firearms license.
This is especially pertinent in the case of Herman Bell – while Bell’s felony murder of two police officers would have left him ineligible for gun rights restoration in New York State, a pardon would have granted him this right…
Herman Bell, 70, who served 44 years in prison for the murder of two New York police officers in the 1970s, was granted parole last month by the state parole board. But a fresh decision by New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo to issue conditional pardons to more than 24,000 parolees means Bell can vote in the upcoming election.
In 1971, Bell, a convicted ex-gang member, murdered New York police officers Joseph Piagentini and his partner, Waverly Jones. The New York State Parole Board voted to give Bell parole in April.
…however, Cuomo was able to avoid this embarrassment by setting an incredibly dangerous precedent – offering a conditional pardon which only restores a convicted felon’s voting rights – nothing more, nothing less:
Q: What rights does the voting restoration pardon restore?
A: The pardon restores the right to vote in elections held in New York State. It neither restores other rights nor removes other exclusions or disabilities. Additionally, it is neither a remission of guilt nor forgiveness for an offense.
According to Cuomo, some rights are worth more than others – what other rights are not covered by these conditional pardons? Free speech? Protection against unreasonable search and seizure?
Apparently, double jeopardy is not one of the rights protected in New York State – for felons, or anyone else:
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) on Wednesday asked state lawmakers to amend the law so that prosecutors can charge individuals who have benefitted from a presidential pardon.
New York’s existing law states that if an individual pleads guilty or is convicted of a federal crime and then is pardoned by the president, prosecutors cannot bring charges for violating state laws because of a double-jeopardy rule that stipulates a person cannot be tried for the same crime twice.
Schneiderman wrote to Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and leaders of the state legislature to argued that as a result of the current policy, a “strategically-timed pardon” could protect individuals who have violated New York state laws.
In an amusingly ironic twist, less than three weeks after Schneiderman attempted to undercut President Trump‘s executive privilege, he was forced to resign when he became the latest casualty of the #MeToo movement, after having “long been a liberal Democratic champion of women’s rights, and.. become an outspoken figure in the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment.”
Schneiderman would almost certainly be denouncing his own platform if Trump decided to pardon him for his own potential sexual assault and misconduct charges. And Cuomo would certainly be put in a jam if he prosecuted Trump-pardoned individuals, but not his sexually abusive AG buddy, given his support for circumventing Trump’s presidential authority:
Through a spokeswoman, Cuomo quickly endorsed the idea: “Governor Cuomo believes that the federal legal system should not provide a basis for any wrong doers to escape justice. To that end, we are reviewing the proposal and look forward to working with the Attorney General on the issue.”
Governor Cuomo and his NY subordinates have ultimately decided to pick and choose which laws they follow, and more importantly, which constitutional rights their constituents have. He has used his “authority” to add loyal Democrat voters to his ranks while simultaneously denying them the right to bear arms – and he has set an extremely dangerous precedent in the process.
What is to stop Cuomo from taking a blanket executive action against the ~96% of “assault weapon” and handgun owners in NY state who are in noncompliance with the NY SAFE act, convicting and judging all as felons by executive action? Such abuse would not be unprecedented, considering Cuomo’s aforementioned draconian conduct, and the work of his government to build a full registry of all (legal) gun owners in the state:
It goes back to the penalties associated with this registration process. The SAFE Act says failure to register handguns is a felony offense — and gun permits are automatically revoked.
“You just can’t do that to people that live in your state, that are lawful gun owners,” Tom King said. “You can’t make them, overnight, criminals.”
As Cuomo has demonstrated, New York absolutely can deny gun owners their rights, as well as deny anyone else any other constitutional rights, all as he and his subordinates see fit – all because anyone who could stop him is unable and/or unwilling to do so.
It seems the only choice New York residents can take to unquestioningly retain their constitutional rights is to… move out of the state. Unsurprisingly, this is exactly what many of them are choosing to do, at an ever-increasing rate.