Former AG Blasts Planned Retrial of Trump Clemency Recipient

The retrial of a man granted clemency by former President Donald Trump would be “fundamentally unjust” and violate Trump’s order, according to former Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Ashcroft spoke to the Daily Caller News Foundation (DCNF) about the case involving former Florida medical facility network owner Philip Esformes.

Esformes received a 20-year prison sentence in 2019 after being convicted of 20 counts, including conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and money laundering. Charges also included receiving and paying federal healthcare program kickbacks, federal program bribery, and obstruction of justice.

Six charges were dismissed, and the jury failed to reach a verdict on six others.

Esformes entered an appeal invoking prosecutorial misconduct, having been confined since his 2016 arrest.

Trump then commuted Esformes’ prison sentence in December 2020 to time served without erasing his three-year supervised release term or remaining $5,530,207 restitution requirement.

Ashcroft and fellow former AGs Edwin Meese, Michael Mukasey, and Alberto Gonzales endorsed Esformes’ appeal before clemency was granted.

Justice Department prosecutors in April 2021 announced plans to again try Esformes on the hung charges, according to the Miami Herald.

“President Trump ordered Mr. Esformes to be released immediately without additional restrictions so he could be reunited with his family,” Ashcroft told DCNF, the Daily Caller reported.

“Indeed, Margaret Love, the U.S. pardon attorney from 1990 through 1997, found that ‘the best understanding’ of Mr. Trump’s clemency warrant ‘is that it was intended to end the government’s prosecution and imprisonment of Esformes.'”

Ashcroft said the prosecutorial misconduct in Esformes’ case “was amongst the most abusive” he has ever seen, based on a magistrate judge’s findings in a nine-day evidentiary hearing, the Daily Caller reported.

“The magistrate judge found that the prosecutors knowingly and repeatedly invaded Mr. Esformes’ privileged attorney client communications, and then used that confidential information against him,” Ashcroft told the DCNF.

“The magistrate judge found that not only had the prosecutors ‘wholly disregarded all privilege concerns’ in taking and using Mr. Esformes’ privileged information, but that prosecutors tried to cover that up at the evidentiary hearing by creating a ‘new narrative’ that she found had ‘zero credibility.’ In fact, the magistrate judge characterized the prosecutors’ conduct as a ‘deplor[able]’ effort to ‘obfuscate’ the evidentiary record.”

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Esformes’ conviction appeal Jan. 6, without passing judgment on the six hung counts in the case.

Esformes’ lawyers filed on Jan. 12 seeking a rehearing and en banc review of the 11th Circuit Court’s decision.

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