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President bush pardons cocaine dealer { December 21 2005 }

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Bush pardons Denver attorney
MDC counsel, now 49, was sentenced in '84 cocaine case

By Tillie Fong and Hector Gutierrez, Rocky Mountain News
December 21, 2005
A Denver lawyer was pardoned Tuesday by President Bush for drug-related crimes she committed more than two decades ago.
Wendy St. Charles, now 49, was among 11 people who received presidential pardons.

In 1984, she was sentenced to four years in prison in Illinois for conspiracy to conduct a narcotics enterprise and distribution of cocaine, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

She was also put on four years of special parole and four years of probation, which were to run consecutively with her sentence.

"It is wonderful news, and I'm grateful to the president," said St. Charles, who was told Tuesday morning about the pardon by a justice department official.

St. Charles declined to discuss her case further and requested that her privacy be respected.

Currently, she is a licensed attorney who works for MDC Holdings, Inc., the largest Denver-based home-building firm and one of the top 10 home builders in the U.S.

Larry Mizel, chair of the MDC Holdings Inc., and his wife, Carol, are major supporters of the Republican Party and its candidates, donating thousands of dollars to their campaigns.

Michael Touff, MDC's senior vice president and general counsel, declined to comment.

Keith Loop, 38, of Denver, who knew St. Charles when both were attending law school at Florida State University, said he was thrilled at the news.

"It's been a long journey," Loop said. "I know how hard she's worked, and I don't know of a more deserving person."

Loop said he thought that St. Charles had started applying for a presidential pardon while attending law school.

"It was such a thing of the past, when she was very young," Loop said of her past record that has been wiped clean with the pardon.

"She was trying to be a productive member of society. It doesn't reflect who she is, and it's irrelevant to her ability in what she does," he added.

Loop said he had been interviewed as a character witness for St. Charles in her application for clemency several years ago.

The White House gave no details Tuesday of why St. Charles was granted the pardon now.

"All persons receiving pardons apply for clemency through the office of the pardon attorney," Blair Jones, White House spokesman, said Tuesday.

"All cases were handled in accordance with standard clemency case processing procedures," Jones said.

Since 2003, President Bush has pardoned 61 people, including the 11 granted Tuesday.

Jones said that all those who received pardons shared a common characteristic:

"Each demonstrated full acceptance and responsibility and remorse for their offense, and each has repaid his debt to society," he said.

The U.S. attorney's office in Chicago declined to comment on the specifics of the case against St. Charles, and referred calls to the Department of Justice.

Loop said that after St. Charles graduated from law school in 1995, she worked for several law firms in Florida before coming to Colorado.

According to the Colorado State Supreme Court, St. Charles obtained her license to practice law in the state in 2001, and joined the law firm of Brownstein Hyatt & Farber in August of that year.

According to the state's licensing policies, applicants are required to disclose their background, and a felony conviction can be grounds for the 11-member Bar Committee to deny a license.

But a felony conviction does not preclude the committee from recommending the license be granted, said Nancy Cohen, chief deputy regulation counsel for the Office of the Attorney Regulation Council, which is under the state Supreme Court.

While reviewing the backgrounds of applicants, the Bar Committee is responsible for determining whether they are mentally, morally and ethically fit to practice law.

Loop said that St. Charles has demonstrated over the years that she was deserving of the pardon.

"She already paid time for that (her crimes)," he said. "This is a person who is devoting the time to being a productive member of society, and to have this over your head would be very damaging and very hard to deal with."

Presidential pardons

Petitions President granted* Petitions denied+

Truman 2,044 2,887

Eisenhower 1,157 3,179

Kennedy 575 831

Johnson 1,187 2,830

Nixon 926 2,614

Ford 409 900

Carter 566 2,056

Reagan 406 2,804

G.H.W. Bush 77 1,621

Clinton 459 4,554

G.W. Bush NA NA* Includes Pardons, Commutations And Remissions Of Fines + Includes Petitions Denied Or Closed Without Presidential Action Source: U.S. Dept. Of J ...

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