Monday 27 May 2019

Trump says he may pardon Muhammad Ali - despite there being no conviction to pardon

President Donald Trump (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)
President Donald Trump (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

Emily Shugerman

An attorney for Muhammad Ali has challenged President Donald Trump’s suggestion that he may pardon the late boxer, pointing out that Ali’s conviction was overturned nearly 50 years ago.

Mr Trump told reporters on Friday the was “very seriously” considering pardoning the heavyweight champ, who was convicted in 1967 of failing to report for military service after being drafted into the Vietnam War.

Ron Tweel, an attorney for Ali's wife and estate, said such a move would not be necessary.

“We appreciate President Trump’s sentiment, but a pardon is unnecessary," Mr Tweel said in a statement. "The US Supreme Court overturned the conviction of Muhammad Ali in a unanimous decision in 1971. There is no conviction from which a pardon is needed."

Ali was sentenced to five years in prison after his conviction, but served no jail time. He appealed his case all the way to the Supreme Court, which found that the government had supplied insufficient rationale for denying his conscientious objector status. The Court vacated Ali’s conviction in a unanimous decision, clearing his criminal record. He died in 2016, at the age of 74.

Mr Trump has already pardoned another boxing great, the late heavyweight champion Jack Johnson. He said on Friday that he was considering some 3,000 more people for pardons. He added that he may start taking suggestions from pro athletes who kneel during the national anthem to protest racial injustice.

"I'm going to ask them to recommend to me people that were unfairly treated, friends of theirs or people that they know about and I'm going to take a look at those applications,” the president said.

Mr Trump has pardoned six people since taking office last year.

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