President Joe Biden has granted the first three pardons of his term on Tuesday, while also commuting the prison sentences of 75 nonviolent drug offenders, according to NBC News. In a statement from Biden, the pardon recipients are “three people who have demonstrated their commitment to rehabilitation and are striving every day to give back and contribute to their communities.”
Of the three, includes clemency to 86-year-old Abraham Bolden. In 1961, Bolden was appointed by President John F. Kennedy as the first African American Secret Service agent to serve on a presidential detail. By 1964, Bolden had been fired and charged with federal bribery. Bolden was believed to have attempted to sell a copy of a federal agency file to Joseph Spagnoli Jr. in exchange for $50,000. Spagnoli was also facing felony charges as the head of a counterfeiting ring, from the same Secret Service office that Bolden was employed.
Bolden denied the allegation and instead insisted that it was retaliation that he was being framed by the government for attempting to reveal Secret Service misconduct against the agents assigned to protect Kennedy. Bolden claimed agents were lax and nonchalant about duties to protect the president, reported to shifts half drunk, and that they used official Secret Service cars to transport women companions or to visit bars. And when Bolden spoke up about the misconduct he was met with slurs.
The head of the Secret Service, James J. Rowley claimed that Bolden’s claims only came when he was charged.
Leading up to the trial Bolden performed a series of piano recitals throughout Chicago to raise money for his legal defense fund.
After two trials, Bolden was convicted and sentenced to six years in prison. But just five months after Bolden’s trial and sentencing, Spagnoli admitted he had falsely testified in Bolden’s trial under advisement of his government counsel.
Bolden was denied a retrial and served thirty-nine months in prison and was released on two and a half years’ probation. Bolden maintained his innocence and wrote a book in which he argued he was targeted for speaking out against racist and unprofessional behavior in the Secret Service.
According to the White House, Bolden had “been recognized for his many contributions to his community following his release.” He has also “received numerous honors and awards for his ongoing work to speak out against the racism he faced in the Secret Service in the 1960s, and his courage in challenging injustice.”