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Support for Drug Dealer “a Mistake”

LOS ANGELES (CNS): Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles said he “made a serious mistake’ in 1996 when he wrote a letter in support of a convicted Los Angeles cocaine dealer who was released from prison on January 20 by President Bill Clinton.

Carlos Vignali, who was serving 15 years in federal prison for bankrolling purchases of hundreds of pounds of cocaine, was among those who received presidential clemency on Mr Clinton’s final day in office.

Mr Clinton pardoned 140 people and commuted 36 prison sentences, including Vignali’s. Several of the cases provoked wide controversy.

The Los Angeles Times reported on February 12 that Cardinal Mahony and several prominent city and state political leaders had written letters to the White House on Vignali’s behalf.

In a statement after the appearance of The Los Angeles Times story, the cardinal said he wrote to Mr Clinton after he was asked to intervene on Vignali’s behalf.

“The purpose of the letter was to seek a further review of the facts, the law and the processes used in his case,” he said. “I made it clear that I was incapable of making a judgment about his guilt or innocence.

“Regardless of the merits of the case,” he added, “I made a serious mistake in writing to the president and I broke my decades-long practice of never sending a letter on behalf of any person whom I did not know personally. I apologise for not following my own principles in this matter.”

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