Activist worries Obama will pardon Marxist terror leader responsible for father’s murder
Whether or not Barack Obama wins re-election in November, Joe Connor is afraid the president may release his father’s killer from prison.
Puerto Rican separatist leader Oscar Lopez Rivera’s group, the Armed Forces of Puerto Rican National Liberation (FALN), killed Joe’s dad Frank Connor 37 years ago during a deadly bombing spree that stretched from the 1970s to the early ’80s. The terrorist group bombed New York City’s historic Fraunces Tavern on Jan. 25, 1975, killing 33-year-old Frank Connor.
Connor, the co-author of “The New Founders: What Would George Washington Think of The United States of America if He Were Alive Today?” told The Daily Caller he suspects Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder will try to release Lopez Rivera from prison long before his 70-year sentence is up. He has heard form “some FBI agents,” he said, that Obama had a relationship with the convict’s brother, Chicago-based community organizer José Lopez.
Holder, he added, “was the mastermind behind the release of the 16 back in 1999,” when President Bill Clinton commuted the sentence of 16 FALN convicts. Both houses of Congress issues stinging resolutions condemning the action. The House vote was 311-41, and the Senate vote was 95-2.
When attorney general nominee Holder faced a 2009 confirmation fight in Congress, the Los Angeles Times reported that he had “instructed his staff at Justice’s Office of the Pardon Attorney to effectively replace the department’s original report recommending against any commutations, which had been sent to the White House in 1996, with one that favored clemency for at least half the prisoners.”
Ultimately, 14 of the 16 offered clemency accepted the offer. One of the two who didn’t was Lopez Rivera. The other was already on his way to parole.
Lopez Rivera’s sister Zenaida Lopez said at the time that her brother rejected Clinton’s clemency offer because he thought he would be in “prison outside prison.”
Connor believes Obama will release him on his last day in office if Romney wins next month’s election. He points to blog posts detailing a recent upswing in liberals’ push for Obama to release the FALN leader, including one from a pardon expert noting that “a month of ‘activities’ are scheduled ‘around the country’ to build support for a presidential pardon.”
Neither DOJ spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler nor would White House spokesman Eric Schultz would comment on Connor’s suspicion.
The Times reported that Holder drafted an “options memo” in 1999 that allowed Clinton to commute the FALN terrorists’ sentences when several high-ranking Justice officials opposed granting them clemency. That memo provided the president with an option to free the prisoners without appearing to be in conflict with his own justice department.
Shortly after Clinton granted the terrorists clemency, then-House oversight committee Chairman Dan Burton, who remains a member of the committee, launched an investigation. Holder’s “options memo” was never made public, and Clinton asserted executive privilege over the memo and much of the related materials.
Clinton dropped that claim of privilege when he left office. Yet Holder testified in his 2009 confirmation hearing that it was protected. That seeming contradiction has led some, including Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, to suggest that President Obama re-asserted privilege over the memo at the beginning of his administration.
Obama has said his first claim of executive privilege came in 2012 and concerned documents pertaining to Operation Fast and Furious.
Connor told The Daily Caller that Lopez Rivera’s rejection of Clinton’s clemency offer never made sense until 2011.
“I mean, he turned down the clemency offer from Clinton in 1999, and he always turned down his parole hearings,” Connor said in a phone interview. “Oscar Lopez was the FALN leader and he turned it down — we didn’t know why he turned it down. We assumed he turned it down because he didn’t repent and he never thought the U.S. had jurisdiction over him.”
But he did appear for a January 2011 parole hearing. Connor was there too. He said he finally got his answer during that hearing.
“Oscar said he turned it down because not all the FALN members had been released,” Connor explained.
“Carlos Torres had not been granted clemency by Clinton and Oscar stayed in prison because not all his comrades had been released. It was the classic ‘captain going down with the ship’ and he was proud of it. You can see it in his eyes.”
“Torres was released in summer of 2010 and we didn’t even know about it,” Connor continued. “They tried to use that in 2011 when we went to Lopez’s parole hearing — they tried to use Torres’ release as the precedent for Oscar’s but the fact is we didn’t know about Torres’ release. If we had, we would have gone to the prison out there and told the same story about what Torres is, and how unrepentant he is, and maybe he wouldn’t have been released had the whole story been told.”
“What was shocking to the terrorist supporters was that we knew about this parole hearing and we made our way out to the middle of the country in the dead of winter and sat across from this terrorist in a room in the prison,” Connor added about Lopez’s hearing. “They didn’t expect that.”
Meanwhile, he said, Lopez Rivera “has got a long time left” on his sentence and will not be eligible again for parole until 2021. “This guy was sentenced to long prison terms because he deserved it. The judge at their trial — they were all tried together — the judge said to some of them that if he could have, he would have sentenced them to death.”
Even though the has not pursued opportunities to legally leave custody until all his comrades were released from prison, Connor said he’s tried to escape illegally on two occasions.
“He tried to escape from prison twice,” Connor said. “There were two escape plans. Because of one of them, he was sentenced to an additional fifteen years in prison. One of the plans involved frontal assault on the guards with machine guns from other FALN members who were still out. One involved a helicopter.”
“I mean, this guy was serious.”