Obama’s choice of Xavier Becerra revives 2001 clemency case

December 5, 2008

Los Angeles Times, 12/5/2008

USTR Nominee Xavier Becerra

USTR Nominee Xavier Becerra

President-elect Barack Obama’s offer to make Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) the next U.S. trade representative makes him the second Cabinet-level candidate to have been involved in President Clinton’s controversial 2001 commutation of a Los Angeles cocaine dealer’s prison sentence. The other is Eric H. Holder Jr., whom Obama has nominated to be attorney general.

The dealer, Carlos Vignali, was convicted in 1994 for his role in a drug ring that delivered more than 800 pounds of cocaine — worth about $5 million at the time — from Los Angeles to Minneapolis. He was released after serving less than half of his 14 1/2 -year sentence.

Becerra was one of a number of Southern California political leaders who urged Clinton to consider commuting Vignali’s prison term in response to a campaign by Vignali’s father, Horacio, a Los Angeles businessman and developer who contributed to Becerra’s political campaigns. The senior Vignali also paid Hillary Rodham Clinton’s brother, Hugh Rodham, $204,000 to lobby for his son’s release.

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