WASHINGTON — President Bush on Tuesday granted a rare pardon, to a Georgetown man convicted in 1991 of concealing information about a felony from authorities.
Morris Keith Parker, 54, said a U.S. Justice Department official called him and left a message with the news on his answering machine.
"They said it was a Christmas present for me," Parker said in an interview. "I'm sure glad to hear it. It was a long time coming."
Parker was among 19 people pardoned Tuesday by Bush. He was the second South Carolinian to get the presidential gift in four weeks, following a Bush pardon of a Travelers Rest man, Carey C. Hice, on Nov. 25.
Parker was convicted in federal court on Oct. 2, 1991, of "misprision of a felony," a legal term for a felony crime of concealing information about a felony from authorities. He served three years' probation and performed 150 hours of community service.
Bush has granted fewer than 2 percent — 199 in total — of 10,299 requests for pardons or sentence commutations in his almost eight years in office, a smaller share than his 10 predecessors dating to World War II.
Parker said he wrote Bush a letter seeking a pardon in 2004, then submitted a completed pardon application the Justice Department had sent him in response.
"I told him I thought I got railroaded by the federal government," Parker said. "I thought it was unfair."
Justice Department guidelines recommend that pardon applicants show contrition and acknowledge guilt in their requests, but Parker denied that he had committed a crime.
Parker said former friends of his who were arrested on separate charges had told police that they had discussed plans to commit a felony with Parker in an effort to curry favor with prosecutors.
"They were friends of mine at one time, but no more, of course," Parker said.
Parker, who owns a tree-service business, said the felony was never committed, but he declined to elaborate.
Tony Fratto, White House deputy press secretary, said contrition on the part of a pardon applicant is important to Bush, but he declined to comment on Parker's case.
"It is a factor that the president considers," Fratto said.
Fratto noted that Bush has issued many of his pardons and sentence commutations in the periods from Thanksgiving to Christmas.
"We haven't ruled out additional pardons," Fratto said. "There are still some out there that the president will consider."
Parker lives in the congressional district of Rep. Henry Brown, a Hanahan Republican. Aides to Brown, and to Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint, said the three lawmakers weren't aware of Parker's pardon request and had no records of contact with him.
A female FBI agent came to South Carolina, Parker said, and did background interviews with his sister and his neighbors as part of the pardon process.
Parker said he's never been able to take his 19-year-old son, Josh, hunting because convicted felons are prohibited in South Carolina from possessing firearms.
The father and son planned to go duck-hunting today (Wednesday).
"I have been waiting on this (pardon) for a long time," Parker said. "It's wonderful. I thought it was an injustice in the first place. I'm glad it's over with."
(Michael Doyle of the McClatchy Washington Bureau contributed.)
WIPING THE SLATE CLEAN
Recent presidents have pardoned or commuted the sentences of far fewer applicants than their predecessors.
Harry Truman, Democrat ..... 40.4 percent granted
Richard Nixon, Republican ..... 35.6 percent
John F. Kennedy, Democrat ..... 32.7 percent
Dwight Eisenhower, Republican ..... 28.2 percent
Gerald Ford, Republican ..... 26.5 percent
Lyndon Johnson, Democrat ..... 26.1 percent
Jimmy Carter, Democrat ..... 21.4 percent
Ronald Reagan, Republican ..... 11.9 percent
Bill Clinton, Democrat ..... 6.1 percent
George H.W. Bush, Republican ..... 5.3 percent
George W. Bush, Republican ..... 1.9 percent
Source: U.S. Department of Justice