WASHINGTON (AP) - In a gesture of forgiveness for an American
considered a hero in Israel, President George W. Bush on Tuesday
granted a pardon posthumously to a man who broke the law to supply
aircraft to Jews fighting in Israel's 1948 war of independence.
Charles Winters was listed in a batch of 19 pardons and one
commutation that Bush issued before leaving for Camp David to spend
the holidays. No high-profile lawbreakers were on the list.
In the summer of 1948, Winters, a non-Jewish Miami businessman
who exported produce, worked with others to transfer two converted
B-17 "Flying Fortresses" to Israel's defense forces. He
personally flew one of the aircraft from Miami to Czechoslovakia,
where that plane and a third B-17 were retrofitted for use as
The three B-17s were the only heavy bombers in the Israeli Air
Force. It is reported that counterattacks with the bombers helped
turned the war in Israel's favor. In March 1961, Israeli Prime
Minister Golda Meir issued a letter of commendation to Winters to
recognize his contributions to Israel's survival as an independent
Over the years, Winters, a Protestant from Boston who settled in
the Miami area, told his family little of his conviction in 1949
for violating the Neutrality Act for conspiring to export aircraft
to a foreign country. He was fined $5,000 and sentenced to 18
months in prison.
Two others, Herman Greenspun and Al Schwimmer, also were
convicted of violating the act, but they did not serve time.
President Kennedy pardoned Greenspun in 1961. President Clinton
pardoned Schwimmer in 2000.
Reginald Brown, an attorney who worked on the Winters pardon,
said Bush's action "rights a historical wrong and honors Charlie's
belief that the creation of the Jewish state was a moral imperative
of his time. ... Charlie Winters helped shape human history for the
Film director Steven Spielberg wrote a letter to Bush appealing
for a pardon for Winters.
"There are probably many unsung heroes of America and of
Israel, but Charlie Winters is surely one of them," wrote the
director of "Schindler's List," his Oscar-winning movie about the
Holocaust. "While a pardon cannot make Charlie Winters whole, and
regrettably he did not live to see it, it would be a fitting
tribute to his memory and a great blessing to his family if this
pardon is granted."
Winters died Oct. 30, 1984, at the age of 71. At his request, a
Christian cemetery near the Jewish cemetery of the Knights Templar
in Jerusalem was made his final resting place.
The only other pardon granted posthumously in recent years was
given to Henry O. Flipper, the first black graduate of the U.S.
Military Academy at West Point. Flipper was drummed out of the Army
after white officers accused him of embezzling about $3,800 from
commissary funds. Flipper initially discovered the funds missing
from his custody and concealed their disappearance from superiors,
hoping the money would return. Clinton gave Flipper a full pardon
With this latest batch, which includes forgiveness for
convictions ranging from gun and drug violations to bank and mail
fraud, Bush has granted a total of 190 pardons and nine
commutations. That's fewer than half as many as Presidents Clinton
or Ronald Reagan issued during their two terms.
In addition to Winters, Bush granted pardons to:
-William Alvis III, of Flushing, Ohio. Possession of an
unregistered firearm and cocaine distribution.
-John Allen Aregood of Riviera, Texas. Conspiracy to harbor and
transport illegal aliens.
-Eric Charles Blanke of Parker, Colo. Counterfeiting.
-Steve Doyle Cavender of The Villages, Fla. Conspiring to
import, possess, distribute and dispense marijuana.
-Marie Elena Eppens of Lynden, Wash. Conspiracy to distribute
and to possess with intent to distribute marijuana.
-Lydia Lee Ferguson of Sun City, Ariz. Conspiracy to distribute
and to possess with intent to distribute marijuana.
-Eduviges Duvi Gonzalez-Matsumura of Clovis, Calif. Aiding and
abetting embezzlement of bank funds.
-George Clarence Greene Jr. of Gray, Ga. Mail fraud.
-James Won Hee Kang of South Barrington, Ill. Trafficking in
-Alan Stephen Maiss of Reno, Nev. Concealing knowledge of a
-Richard Harold Miller of Tallahassee, Fla. Conspiracy to
defraud the United States.
-Delano Abraham Nixon of Neosho Rapids, Kan. Forging the
endorsement on a U.S. Treasury check.
-John H. Overholt of Black Hawk, S.D. Concealment of information
affecting Social Security benefits.
-Morris Keith Parker of Georgetown, S.C. Concealing knowledge of
-Robert Truman Reece of Redondo Beach, Calif. Unauthorized
absence and missing the movement of a U.S. Navy ship.
-Donald Edward Roessler of Harrison, Ohio. Embezzlement of mail
-Issac Robert Toussie of Brooklyn, N.Y. False statements to the
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and mail fraud.
-David Lane Woolsey of St. George, Utah. Aiding and abetting
violation of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act.
Bush also commuted the prison sentence of Reed Raymond Prior of
Des Moines, Iowa.
Prior was convicted of possession of methamphetamine with intent
to distribute. He was sentenced in 1996 in the Southern District of
Iowa to life in prison with 10 years of supervised release. His
prison sentence is now set to expire on Feb. 23, 2009, but the
terms of the commutation leave intact and in effect the 10 years of
supervised release with all its conditions.
Well-known names were not on Bush's holiday pardon list. There
have been pushes to get Bush to pardon former Louisiana Gov. Edwin
Edwards, who was convicted in 2000 with four others in a scheme to
rig riverboat casino licensing; disgraced track star Marion Jones,
who lied about using steroids; Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean,
former U.S. Border Patrol agents who were convicted of shooting a
drug smuggler in 2005 and trying to cover it up; and Michael
Milken, junk bond king who was convicted of securities fraud.
In his most high-profile official act of forgiveness, Bush saved
Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis
"Scooter" Libby, from serving any prison time in the case of the
2003 leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity.
Libby was convicted of perjury and obstructing justice. Bush
could still grant him a full pardon, although Libby has not applied
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)