Trump Pardons Former GOP Lawmaker Who Served Time After FBI Sting
By John Wildermuth
President Trump on Wednesday pardoned former GOP Assemblyman Pat Nolan, who spent more than two years in federal prison after pleading guilty in 1994 in an FBI sting operation looking into corruption in the Legislature.
"Nolan's experiences with prosecutors and in prison changed his life," according to a statement from the White House. "Upon his release, he became a tireless advocate for criminal justice reform and victim's rights."
Nolan, 68, said his time in prison was a gift from God.
"I am so grateful that God used my time in prison to open my eyes to injustice, and equipped me to advocate for the voiceless," he said in a tweet Wednesday evening. "And I am thankful that President Trump saw fit to grant me a pardon."
Nolan has been an acquaintance of Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, ever since Kushner's father was sentenced to prison for tax evasion and other crimes in 2005. As part of his prison ministries work, Nolan prepared the older Kushner for his time behind bars, said Arnold Steinberg, a former GOP consultant and friend of Nolan since they worked as teenage Republican campaign volunteers for Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan.
Once Trump was elected, Nolan worked with Kushner on prison reform issues, such as the bipartisan First Step Act, which Trump signed last December.
"Pat would never ask for a pardon," Steinberg said, but Steinberg and others asked people in the White House if it could be arranged. The effort has been in the works for months, he added.
Nolan's 1994 guilty plea to a single count of racketeering destroyed his career as an attorney and a politician.
Nolan was first elected to the Legislature from the San Fernando Valley in 1978, one of a group of deeply conservative GOP legislators known as "the Prop. 13 babies" for the tax relief measure passed that year or, less charitably, as "the Cavemen," for their all-out opposition to taxes.
He was Assembly minority leader from 1984 until 1988, serving as the GOP opposition to Speaker Willie Brown and the Democratic legislators.
But he ran afoul of an FBI operation prompted by reports that legislators were taking bribes to pass bills. Undercover FBI agents formed a phony company called Gulf Shrimp Fisheries, paying more than $80,000 in campaign contributions solicited by legislators and their aides to move bills helping the bogus company.
The bills passed both the Assembly and state Senate but were vetoed by Gov. George Deukmejian, who had been tipped off by the FBI.
Nolan accepted checks from an undercover FBI agent to help get the bills passed. He wasn't the only legislator caught in the operation dubbed "Shrimpscam." Three state senators and another assemblyman also received prison sentences.
Nolan was charged in 1993 with felony counts that included conspiracy, extortion, money laundering and racketeering, but was told that the charges would disappear if he pleaded guilty to the racketeering charge.
"He could defend himself against charges of public corruption and risk decades in prison or he could plead guilty and accept a 33-month sentence," the White House statement said. "Determined to help his wife raise their three young children, Mr. Nolan chose to accept the plea."
In prison, Nolan helped organize religious study groups. He is currently director of the Center for Criminal Justice Reform at the American Conservative Union and is the author of a guide for churches and community groups that help former convicts.
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