Special-treatment tag sticks to Foley pardon

Without knowing the statistics on early ends of prison sentences for drunk-driving offenses, it’s hard to say indisputably that special treatment is part of Gov. Ben Cayetano’s pardon of an attorney imprisoned for the traffic death of a man.

But it looks that way, which makes Cayetano’s action so open to criticism-and fair criticism, at that.

Foley was sentenced in 1997 to 10 years for the DUI-related fatality. After serving less than two and a half years, he began a furlough that included working in the Legislature as an aide to House Speaker Calvin Say. Cayetano pardoned Foley last month, making him a free man effective last week.

A representative of the state chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving quickly denounced the pardon, claiming Foley got special treatment that no prisoner in similar situations has received.

If the pardon in fact is an exception to the rule, no explanation by Cayetano (his spokeswoman said Foley was a model prisoner) or by Foley’s lawyer (who noted the victim’s family didn’t want Foley to go to prison) can dispel the appearance that Foley’s case was handled because of who he is.

Further tainting the pardon is the information that Foley paid an undisclosed financial settlement to the family and that the wife of the victim asked for his release from prison.

The family is entitled to its actions.

Considering their loss of a loved one, no one should question their motives for seeking Foley’s release. Nevertheless, the public deserves consistent application of the law. Justice also is required, and justice doesn’t appear to have been served by Cayetano freeing Foley before he even finished the Hawaiian Paroling Authority’s recommended minimum sentence of four years.

Sorry, governor. This doesn’t wash.

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