President Joe Biden on Tuesday granted the first three pardons of his term, while commuting the prison sentences of 75 nonviolent drug addicts, according to NBC News. In a statement from Biden, the pardon recipients are “three individuals who have demonstrated their commitment to rehabilitation and strive every day to give back and contribute to their communities.”
Among the three, includes leniency towards Abraham Bolden, 86. In 1961, Bolden was named by President John F. Kennedy as the first African-American Secret Service agent to serve in a presidential detail. By 1964, Bolden had been fired and charged with federal bribery. Bolden allegedly attempted to sell a copy of a federal agency file to Joseph Spagnoli Jr. 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 it was retaliation that he was being charged by the government for trying to expose Secret Service misconduct against the agents assigned to protect Kennedy. Bolden claimed the agents were lax and nonchalant about protective duties for the president, reported half-drunk, and used official Secret Service cars to transport female companions or to visit bars. And when Bolden spoke about the misconduct, he received insults.
Secret Service Chief James J. Rowley claimed Bolden’s claims only came when he was indicted.
Before the trial, Bolden gave 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 at Bolden’s trial under the guidance of his government attorney.
Bolden was denied a new trial and served thirty-nine months in prison and was released with two and a half years probation. Bolden maintained his innocence and wrote a book in which he claimed he was targeted for exposing 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 also “received numerous honors and awards for his continued work in exposing the racism he faced in the Secret Service in the 1960s, and his courage in challenging injustice.”