Things said by and about President Barack Obama have been making headlines throughout the last days of his presidency. From his commutation of Chelsea Manning’s prison sentence to the statements made about him by Buffalo School Board member Carl Paladino, President Obama has been the subject of several controversial national news stories over the past week. Nationally renowned attorney Paul Cambria spoke to WBEN about the commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence and about the Buffalo School Board’s handling of Carl Paladino’s statements on President Obama. The full interview is available on the WBEN website.
Sentence end date up to President
When asked when Chelsea Manning’s sentence will end now that it has been commuted, Mr. Cambria said that “it is up to the President as to when he wants to set the date. When you commute a sentence, you basically terminate it and, in her case, I think that it doesn’t get terminated for another four months or something like that.” He went on to say that “when they give the commutation edict, it specifies when the sentence is commuted and it sets a date.”
Commutation is controversial decision
Mr. Cambria told WBEN that, in his opinion, Manning’s commutation will be polarizing. “It’s going to be a controversial thing,” he explained, “because it seems more political than it does substantive and we have a number of people who were in the Armed Forces, for example, who had minor violations and wound up in prison as a result of it and now this situation of releasing information, secrets, and so on, and then commuting the sentence—I think this is going to be a very controversial end to the President’s term.”
Potential for more acts of espionage
WBEN asked Mr. Cambria if Manning’s commutation could encourage more acts of espionage throughout the country, particularly given the number of commutations granted throughout President Obama’s 8 years in office. “I really don’t think so,” Mr. Cambria responded, “because usually these commutations, and we hear about pardons and so on, I mean that happens and it’s a major political thing. Usually people with political influence are the ones who are involved and they seem to be the beneficiaries of these things. But I don’t think it really has an impact on the population at large as far as committing crimes because it’s such a rare thing.”
“You know, 1300 [commutations granted by President Obama] is certainly a lot and a lot of Presidents have had long lists when they left office, including Clinton and Bush and so on,” he continued, “but I don’t think it impacts on people committing crimes. It is political. I don’t think that it’s favored by most people and I think this one is going to be pretty controversial.”
Buffalo School Board and Carl Paladino
During this interview, WBEN also asked Mr. Cambria about how the Buffalo School Board is dealing with the controversial statements made by Carl Paladino. When asked if the School Board had to hire legal help in order to communicate with the State Education Department or if they could have done it themselves, Mr. Cambria responded that they could have done it themselves. “The Education Department has their own attorneys and they’re going to have to grapple with the issue of whether or not the First Amendment will be violated,” he explained.
Mr. Cambria went on to say that “unless they find a specific rule or regulation that [Paladino] violated, either of the School Board or of the Education Law, what he said, although distasteful—and, obviously, people think it was the wrong thing to do—is still speech protected by the First Amendment. The government can’t decide what speech they like and what speech they don’t like and punish you because they don’t like your speech.”
About Paul J. Cambria, Jr.
The chair of Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria’s Criminal Defense Trials and Appeals Practice Area, Mr. Cambria advises clients on criminal trials, criminal appeals, constitutional and First Amendment law, zoning and land use, antitrust, and professional licensing defense. He divides his time between the firm’s offices in Buffalo and Los Angeles.