- The Washington Times - Monday, March 21, 2016


Linda Byrnes, a Michigan mother, has been behind bars for more than two decades.

Dubbed the “matriarch” of a major drug ring, she hardly had the reputation of, say, a member of the violent Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) or crime mistress Ma Barker, whose hands, federal lawmen said, were as thieving and bloodied as her sons.

Barnes’ drug operation, which included her son, handled more than a ton of pot in deals that traveled from Mexico and Texas to Ohio, North Carolina and Michigan before her conviction in June 1996. Federal authorities said she and her conspirators netted $4 million. Her son, John, was given immunity and was the prosecutors’ chief witness against his mother.

Today, Byrnes is 69, cancer-stricken and two years away from her the end of her federal sentence. She is among a list of hundreds of “nonviolent” prisoners who are hoping to be set free by President Obama before he leaves the White House in 2016.

“I thought clemency was for people like me,” Byrnes told Reuters from her prison in Alderson, West Virginia.

Byrnes’ hopes are high because the next president might not be as left-leaning as Mr. Obama, who, urged on by the leniency movement, promised in 2014 to reduce the sentences of “nonviolent” offenders to help reduce bulging prison populations.

Of the more than 44,000 federal inmates like Byrnes, 8,000-plus have applied for sentence reviews by the Department of Justice. Recent news report say DOJ — i.e., Mr. President — faces a backlog of thousands.

Did George Soros factor a lag time into the equation?

Yes, the one and only George Soros. The George Soros who has donated more than $6 million to Hillary Clinton’s super PAC amid her Democratic run for president. The same George Soros — in sync with Mr. Obama on the issue in 2014 — gifted $50 million to the American Civil Liberties Union to help get people like Byrnes get-out-of-jail free cards.

Eleanor Holmes Norton is trying to do her part, too. The non-voting D.C. congressional delegate is proposing legislation that would punt clemency for D.C. inmates into the hands of whoever happens to be mayor of the District. Currently, only the president can grant clemency for federal prisoners.

As things now stand in the U.S. Constitution, Congress has the prerogative to grant, ignore or modify all things related to the District. Also, the 1973 Home Rule Act, which granted the city limited executive, legislative and judicial powers, remains subordinate to the Constitution.

Mrs. Norton, a D.C. native, constitutional law expert and congressional member since 1991, wants to change the clemency, pardon and commutation prerogatives.

“All that needs to be said is that the District, like states, should have full control of its local criminal justice system, the most basic responsibility of local government, including clemency, following a conviction in local courts under local law,” said Ms. Norton.

Well, begging Mrs. Norton’s pardon, but that is not all that needs to be said.

The dollars and the cents must be discussed and laid out long before such a piece of legislation is even considered.

On more than one occasion, Congress and the White House passed along federal responsibilities to D.C. taxpayers and things didn’t go so well. The transfer of St. Elizabeths Hospital to D.C. hands left a huge dent in D.C. coffers, and another example, the high costs of some civil service retirement transfers could have sent the city to the poor house.

Look, it’s another election year, which means its time to think long-term and be clear of mind. More autonomy isn’t needed as Congress isn’t paying attention anyhow, and statehood won’t be granted to D.C. before Mrs. Norton’s seat is up in 2018. So let’s not put the cart before the jackass.

George Soros is either a smart man or a truly blessed one. But he’s a buttinski.

Washingtonians could jump in bed with George Soros if he were to put his name on a $500,000 D.C. deed and take up residence near one of the proposed homeless shelters, where he’ll surely get the ear of his new neighbors.

Mayor Muriel Bowser delivers her State of the District address Tuesday evening. She’s already influenced by what Mr. Obama does and does not do. No further confusion is needed.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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