Politics & Government

Clovis woman gets presidential pardon

WASHINGTON — President Bush on Tuesday pardoned Clovis resident Eduviges Duvi Gonzalez-Matsumura for a nonviolent crime committed more than 15 years ago.

The presidential pardon was one of 19 issued Friday, and it was a remarkable turnaround for Gonzalez-Matsumura. She filed her pardon application five years ago, by herself and without the help of an attorney.

"I think it's a great thing," Gonzalez-Matsumura said Tuesday afternoon in a brief telephone interview.

Now 37, and known to her friends as Duvi, she was convicted in 1993 of aiding and abetting the embezzlement of bank funds in Southern California. Gonzalez-Matsumura served two months in prison and an additional three years on parole. As a parole condition, she had to perform 300 hours of community service.

On Tuesday, capping what she said has "been a long process," she was called at home by a Justice Department official to advise her she had beaten the odds and secured the pardon.

"I want to be able to give this thought," she said, declining further comment for the time being.

In winning her pardon, she succeeded where many others have failed.

In fiscal 2008, the Justice Department's Office of the Pardon Attorney received 555 pardon applications. Bush granted 44. This is more generous than his father, President George H.W. Bush, who in some years didn't grant a singe pardon. It is less generous than President Bill Clinton. In fiscal 2000, Clinton received 336 pardon applications and granted 70.

Presidents sometimes start offering more pardons during their final year in office; Clinton, inciting some political controversy, issued 218 pardons in fiscal 2001. The count for Bush's final fiscal year in office isn't yet complete, and many Democratic critics are waiting to see whether he might extend presidential mercy to some who have served in his administration.

A presidential pardon restores rights and privileges that one loses upon conviction. These differ by state. Some states, although not California, block former felons from voting or require them to file special applications to vote. Former felons may be blocked from serving on juries or obtaining occupational licenses and firearms, and more. With a pardon, these opportunities open up again.

"A presidential pardon serves as an official statement of forgiveness for the commission of a federal crime and restores basic civil rights," then-Pardon Attorney Roger C. Adams testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2001. "It does not connote innocence."

Typically, the pardon applications are reviewed by local prosecutors and sometimes the judge who sentenced the individual. FBI agents, according to the Justice Department, examine the individual's "financial and employment stability, responsibility toward family, reputation in the community, participation in community service, charitable or other meritorious activities and, if applicable, military record."

Officials also take into account the individual's atonement and acceptance of responsibility for the crime committed.