Barack Obama hasn’t handed out a lot of presidential pardons – just 17 so far during his two-plus years in the Oval Office. Yet one of the individual’s fortunate enough to have had a pardon bestowed upon him isn’t showing a whole lot of gratitude.
Bobby Gerald Wilson of Summerton was granted clemency by the president for his 1985 felony conviction of having sold alligator hides to undercover federal agents just over the Georgia border from Beaufort County.
Wilson, 61, said he applied for the pardon six years ago under President George W. Bush and had given up hope it would ever be granted, according a story by McClatchy newspapers.
“I waited and waited and waited,” Wilson told McClatchy. “Mine should have been done a whole lot sooner. The crime that I committed was no major crime.”
Translation: Don’t sit up waiting for a thank you note, Mr. President.
Wilson was manager of the Fife Plantation, a former rice-growing plantation and Civil War battlefield on the Savannah Back River in Beaufort, when he started killing gators and selling their hides.
Alligator hunting, though now legal in South Carolina and Georgia – with a limit of one per person during the one-month season from early September to early October – was illegal in 1982.
And Wilson, who said he was driven by financial need from his children’s illnesses, was killing a lot more than one gator a year.
“Wilson thought he had found a good thing when he started selling ‘a whole lot’ of alligator pelts – he declined to disclose the exact number – to two eager buyers in Georgia,” according to McClatchy. “Wilson would kill the gators at the Fife Plantation, whose grounds he knew like the back of his hand, skin them and cross the border into Georgia with the hides.”
After a month of purchases, the buyers flashed their federal badges. Wilson had been snared in a sting run by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the McClatchy report added.
Wilson was able to hire a prominent defense attorney, William Moore, who helped him get a short sentence under a plea agreement of three months and 18 days in the federal prison in Leavenworth, Kan., plus 300 hours of community service.
Even though Obama has been less lenient than most of his predecessors in bestowing pardons – his 17 clemency grants in 28 months in office would equal 54 over two terms, fewer than any two-term president except for George Washington, who issued 16 – that didn’t seem to impress Wilson.
The best Wilson could manage in terms of gratitude was that now that his voting rights have been restored by the pardon, he plans to back Obama in next year’s election.
“Now that he’s done me a favor, I’ll do him a favor,” Wilson said.
One thing would appear to be certain: eligibility for a presidential pardon doesn’t appear to be contingent upon remorse.