At a town hall meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders demanded clemency for terrorist Oscar Lopez Rivera and vowed to pardon him if elected president.
“Oscar López Rivera is one of the longest-serving political prisoners in history — 34 years, longer than Nelson Mandela,” declared Sanders. “We are talking about a Vietnam War veteran who was awarded a Bronze Star. I say to President Obama — let him out!”
As the New York Post observed, Sanders didn’t bother explaining why Lopez Rivera is in prison:
López Rivera was a founder of the FALN (Fuerza Armadas de Liberacion Nacional, Spanish for Armed Forces of National Liberation), which waged a violent campaign for Puerto Rican independence.
López Rivera was arrested in Chicago in May 1981 and was convicted of trying to overthrow the U.S. government, seditious conspiracy to destroy federal property, armed robbery, weapons violations and interstate transportation of stolen property.
He was sentenced to 55 years in prison.
The Post goes on to note that the FALN’s reign of terror included six deaths, 130 injuries, and at least 114 bombings, including “the 1975 explosion at historic Fraunces Tavern in lower Manhattan, which left four people dead and wounded more than 50 others, and a New Year’s Eve 1982 bombing at police headquarters that maimed three NYPD cops who tried to defuse the explosives.”
Here’s how the police bombings went down, as recalled by the Wall Street Journal:
It was nearly 10 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, 1982. Two officers on New York Police Department’s elite bomb squad rushed to headquarters at One Police Plaza, where minutes earlier an explosion had destroyed the entrance to the building. Lying amid the carnage was Police Officer Rocco Pascarella, his lower leg blasted off.
“He was ripped up like someone took a box cutter and shredded his face,” remembered Detective Anthony Senft, one of the bomb-squad officers who answered the call 25 years ago. “We really didn’t even know that he was a uniformed man until we found his weapon, that’s how badly he was injured.”
About 20 minutes later, Mr. Senft and his partner, Richard Pastorella, were blown 15 feet in the air as they knelt in protective gear to defuse another bomb. Detective Senft was blinded in one eye, his facial bones shattered, his hip severely fractured. Mr. Pastorella was blinded in both eyes and lost all the fingers of his right hand. A total of four bombs exploded in a single hour on that night, including at FBI headquarters in Manhattan and the federal courthouse in Brooklyn.
Those old enough to remember the Clinton administration may recall the Clintons fooling around with the idea of blanket pardons for FALN members to woo Puerto Rican voters for Hillary Clinton’s Senate bid in New York.
The Wall Street Journal noted the Clinton ploy was “widely condemned as a concession to terrorists,” not to mention “an outrageous slap in the face of the victims and a bitter betrayal of the cops and federal law enforcement officers who had put their lives on the line to protect the public and who had invested years of their careers to put these people behind bars.”
“Mr. Clinton’s action was opposed by the FBI, the Bureau of Prisons, the U.S. attorney offices that prosecuted the cases and the victims whose lives had been shattered. In contravention of standard procedures, none of these agencies, victims or families of victims were consulted or notified prior to the president’s announcement,” the Journal observed.
It was such a disaster that Hillary Clinton was obliged to distance herself from Bill’s idea, and even actively denounce it, supposedly turning sour on the clemency deal because the FALN terrorists refused to renounce violence. Interestingly enough, Bernie Sanders’s hero Oscar Lopez Rivera rejected the deal too because Bill Clinton only offered to spring 12 of his comrades from jail, instead of all of them.
City Journal pushed back against the rising tide of liberal sentiment for releasing Lopez Rivera last summer by pointing out that he’s not a “political prisoner” locked up because of his ideology. His convictions include:
…possession of an unregistered firearm; interstate transportation of firearms with intent to commit seditious conspiracy, and interference with interstate commerce by use of violence; interstate transportation of a stolen vehicle; conspiracy to escape, to transport explosives with the intent to kill and injure people, and to destroy government buildings and property; aiding and abetting travel in interstate commerce to carry out arson; and using a telephone to carry out arson.
As for his ideology, Lopez Rivera has declared himself “an enemy of the United States government” and refused numerous opportunities to express remorse to the victims of FALN violence and their families.
“Even with his very freedom at stake, he provided nothing more than lies, rambling obfuscations, political diatribe, blaming everyone but himself and childish rationalizations for his admitted career in the murderous FALN and multiple prison escape attempts,” Joe Connor, whose father Frank was killed by an FALN bomb in 1975, said after attending a 2011 parole hearing for Lopez Rivera.
Those who favor the death penalty argue that long sentences and “life in prison” have a way of being shortened by judges and politicians, especially when there are strong ideological or electoral considerations. Bernie Sanders has provided another bit of supporting evidence for that argument and given us a look at the hard, sharp edge under his ostensibly “soft” socialism.