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The White House clearly believes if you do the crime, you do the time. President George W. Bush has only granted three reductions in sentencing in six years in office, making Phillip Emmert’s commutation a rare executive Christmas gift. “We had the perfect case for this particular president,” says Emmert’s lawyer, Tim Means, a partner in Crowell & Moring’s D.C. office. Emmert, who was convicted in Iowa on drug charges in 1992 and was serving a 22-year sentence, underwent a profound transformation in prison after a 1994 car accident that left his wife paralyzed from the waist down. Motivated by the need to take care of his wife and daughter, he entered a drug treatment program, became a licensed minister, and began volunteering at a hospice to console the dying. For the past four years, Means and Katherine Reilly, an associate at the firm, have had everyone from Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (D) to the entire congregation of the Washington, Iowa, First Assembly of God Church petitioning the president for Emmert’s release, and on Dec. 21 their efforts finally paid off. “This was an opportunity for President Bush,” says Means, “to show how the power of clemency ought to be used entirely consistent with the constitutional principles that underlie it.”
Attila Berry can be contacted at [email protected].

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