While it was shocking enough to read that a man described as a lawyer has requested a presidential pardon for Charles Manson, what is also shocking is that any attorney would be so incapable of understanding what several of Glenn’s readers do — that Charles Manson was convicted only of state offenses.

Yes, Manson was convicted in a California court of murders that occurred in California, and was sentenced by a California court.

Glenn says Manson’s purported attorney is “barking up the wrong tree, as the President can only issue pardons for federal offenses.”

That is so true that I long thought it was beyond dispute, and said so in two posts. Federalism (separation of state and federal jurisdiction) is so basic a concept that it shouldn’t be worth another post pointing it out.

Except this is the second time in the past year that I’ve seen such a misdirected pardon request, the first being a Saudi man convicted in a Colorado court of a rape occurring in Colorado. I pointed out that the Saudi lobbyists should have petitioned the Colorado governor, but snarked that not only might the Saudis think Obama has kingly powers, so might the people who attend trendy leftist cocktail parties:

I realize that many of the backwards-thinking constitutional literalists like me will argue that he simply doesn’t have the power, because the Constitution doesn’t give him the power, but haven’t we already been proven wrong many times, and by better minds than our own?

Don’t laugh. When I venture out into the real world of trendy leftist cocktail parties and the topic of the Constitution comes up, occasionally I’ll mention what the document says and what the founders intended, and I get that rolled eyeballs look, as if I am worthy of ridicule. So maybe I should get with the times, and get with the program. Laughable though I might think the idea is, if I asserted that the Constitution should be culturally expanded and the presidential power should be made culturally inclusive, few would laugh. Hell, if I kept a straight-enough face, I might even be taken seriously.

After all, who wants to be laughed at?

Looking more closely into the Manson pardon request, I saw that the “lawyer” (in quotes because I am not sure what he is) who wrote to the president (PDF) is not an American, but an Italian, one Giovanni Di Stefano.

To call Di Stefano a piece of work does not quite do the man justice. The “clients” (for lack of a better term) listed on his Wiki page (and he has complained that Wiki defamed him, naturally) read like a Who’s Who of World Crooks and Swindlers. He’s a friend of all sorts of awful people (like Slobadan Milosevic), and has tried to intervene on behalf os Saddam Hussein and others:

Notable people that Giovanni Di Stefano has represented include: Saddam Hussein;[20] Tariq Aziz;[21] Patrick Holland;[22] Jeremy Bamber;[23] Nicholas van Hoogstraten;[24] John Gilligan;[25] Charles Bronson[26][27] Ali Hassan al-Majid (known as Chemical Ali, whose death sentence Di Stefano tried, but failed, to overturn);[27] Gary Glitter (pop star);[28] Birgit Cunningham (on her child support payment complaints against the son of billionaire Sir Nicholas Nuttal);[29] Ian Brady;[30] and Ian Strachan (one of the defendants in the 2007 royal blackmail plot).[31] He has also represented Ronald Biggs (one of the Great Train Robbers) in his claims for release from prison.[32]

I am unable to determine whether the man is a lawyer, but it does seem that he is a businessman who acts as a sort of lawyer:

…an Italian businessman, notable through his involvement in various legal cases. Raised in the United Kingdom, but based in Italy, he has made a reputation claiming to act as lawyer for high-profile notorious defendants worldwide – he has been referred to as [1][2] “The Devil’s Advocate“.[nb 1] He was a business associate of Serbian paramilitary leader Arkan (Željko Ražnatovi?)[2][3] and appeared on CNN as part of the defence team in the trial of Saddam Hussein.[4][5] He has taken a considerable interest in football, and is a music producer.

Whether he understands federalism or the Constitution is probably a silly question, as I doubt Di Stefano could care less anyway.

From his letter to President Obama:

The Applicant is now 76 years of age and has served 43 years on what at worst should have been no more than nineteen even if one could sustain that he had received a fair trial. On the basis of the above as stated where the judiciary cannot, will not or simply fail to rectify a wrong it is for the Executive no matter how notorious the Applicant to apply the powers vested by the Constitution.

President Gerald Ford applied the pardon to former President Richard Nixon on September 8, 1974, for official misconduct which gave rise to the Watergate scandal. Andrew Johnson pardoned thousands of former Confederate officials and military personnel after the American Civil War. Jimmy Carter granted amnesty to Vietnam-era draft dodgers. George H. W. Bush’s pardoned 75 people, including six Reagan administration officials accused and/or convicted in connection with the Iran-Contra affair. William Clinton commuted sentences for 16 members of FALN in 1999 and of 140 people on his last day in office, including billionaire fugitive Marc Rich. Most recently, George W. Bush’s commuted the prison term of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

This application is for remission of sentence of the above for the reasons outlined. We are of course it requires courage and even audacity and may not be popular because the media have painted the Applicant in a manner that is frankly, not consistent with the evidence. In order for Democracy to work the Criminal Justice System must work and the application of executive intervention is often required. We ask that it is applied to this applicant.

Whether you like Barack Obama or not, does any American president really need a lecture from an Italian crackpot about how Charles Manson needs to be pardoned “in order for democracy to work”? (And why does CNN consider this man a legal expert?)

Needless to say, the presidential pardons Di Stefano mentions all involved federal crimes. If the man is serious (which I seriously doubt), he should be asking California Governor Jerry Brown to pardon Charles Manson. And good luck with that; I doubt even Governor Moonbeam is that crazy.

What worries me is to see this happening twice.

I’d hate to see the idea that President Obama possesses (or should possess) extraconstitutional, kingly powers become an international habit.