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Trump's last-minute pardons include a guy who shared Google's trade secrets with Uber, a snake smuggler, and a man charged with cyberstalking a doctor

Business Insider logo Business Insider 1/20/2021 jgerstein@businessinsider.com (Julie Gerstein)
Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie: President Donald Trump pardoned Ken Kurson, who at one time was nominated to be on the board of the National Endowment for the Humanities, among others. David Dee Delgado/Getty Images © Provided by Business Insider President Donald Trump pardoned Ken Kurson, who at one time was nominated to be on the board of the National Endowment for the Humanities, among others. David Dee Delgado/Getty Images
  • In his last hours in office, President Donald Trump issued more than 140 pardons and commutations.
  • Many went to nonviolent drug offenders, but Trump also gave clemency to some surprising figures.
  • The list included a friend of Jared Kushner, a snake smuggler, and a former Google executive.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump issued 143 pardons and commutations in his final hours in office, none of which went to Joe Exotic.

Exotic and his lawyer Eric Love were hoping for a pardon - Love was said to be waiting outside the prison holding the "Tiger King" star with a limo on standby (after several hours, he drove away). Exotic is serving a 22-year sentence on more than a dozen charges of animal abuse and two counts of attempted murder.

But, surprisingly, the exotic-animal world was still represented on the president's list. Robert Bowker pleaded guilty to trafficking in wildlife 30 years ago, after he was caught transporting 22 snakes to the Miami Serpentarium, an act for which he was offered 22 American alligators. Bowker was sentenced to probation and has spent much of the past few decades working in conservation. Trump granted him a full pardon.

Trump also looked to pardon fellow politicians, including former Rep. Rick Renzi of Arizona, who was convicted in 2013 of extortion, bribery, insurance fraud, money laundering, and racketeering in connection with the development of a mine outside Phoenix.

Renzi was released from prison in 2017. In a statement Wednesday, he said: "After almost 14 years of fighting for my innocence, it took a real man of action and courage in President Trump to finally relieve me of the horrific deceit of being wrongly convicted by a Department of Justice that engaged in witness tampering, illegal wiretapping, and gross prosecutorial misconduct."

Ken Kurson, who in 2018 was nominated to be on the board of the National Endowment for the Humanities, was also granted a pardon in an ongoing cyberstalking case.

As the FBI began vetting the former New York Observer editor for the NEH role, it was revealed that he'd been accused of harassing and stalking two doctors at Mount Sinai Hospital, one of whom he was said to have blamed for the dissolution of his marriage in 2015.

A criminal complaint was filed that alleged Kurson had created false online personas to harass the women and that he had at one time contacted the women's employer to falsely accuse them of "improper contact with a minor," according to CNBC.

Kurson is known to be a close friend of Jared Kushner and is connected to him through his work at the Observer, the newspaper Kushner once owned.

According to The New York Times, Kurson also helped write a campaign speech for Trump in 2016 and in was a coauthor on Rudy Giuliani's 2002 book, "Leadership."

Also pardoned in the latest round was a former Google executive, Anthony Levandowski, whose clemency was supported by several entrepreneurial heavyweights, including the venture capitalist Peter Thiel, the Creative Artists Agency cofounder Michael Ovitz, and the Oculus cofounder Palmer Luckey.

Levandowski, who founded Google's self-driving-car initiative, became embroiled in a civil lawsuit after he was accused of sharing trade secrets with Uber. In March he pleaded guilty to one charge of secret theft and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

More than a dozen of the pardons went to people who had been convicted of nonviolent drug offenses. In some cases, those convictions go back to the late 1980s and early 1990s. Many of the names given to Trump were vetted by Cut50, a bipartisan criminal-justice-reform group.

Alice Johnson, who was granted clemency by Trump in 2018 after being convicted of drug trafficking in 1996, was part of Cut50's efforts. (Trump granted Johnson a full pardon in 2020 after she spoke at the Republican National Convention on his behalf.)

One particularly striking commutation that Johnson fought for was that of Ferrell Damon Scott, who was convicted of possession with intent to distribute marijuana in 2007 and, under the Three Strikes Law policy, was given a life sentence. The commutation was supported by the acting US Attorney Sam Sheldon, who said he "strongly does not believe" that Scott deserved a life sentence.

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