JEFFERSON CITY — Political megadonor Rex Sinquefield is pushing Gov. Mike Parson to tackle a backlog of more than 3,600 clemency requests from people convicted of crimes.
Jennifer Bukowsky, a Columbia defense attorney and Republican activist who has pushed for criminal justice reforms, posted on Facebook on Dec. 21 a picture of herself, Sinquefield, his daughter Katie Sinquefield, former U.S. Sen. Jim Talent and Parson in the governor’s office.
“Met with the Governor today to encourage him to regularly exercise his pardon powers,” Bukowsky said. “He inherited a huge backlog of over 3500 applications.”
That same day, Parson announced he had granted 24 pardons and had commuted four sentences. Kelli Jones, spokeswoman for Parson, said the week before that the governor was prepared to make an announcement on select clemency cases before Christmas.
Jones said Tuesday the governor’s office had already made “numerous clemency decisions” before he met with the Sinquefields, Talent and Bukowsky and that “the meeting had no impact on those decisions.”
“The individuals in the photograph met with the Governor and members of his staff to discuss the clemency process generally and to suggest efficiencies,” she said in an email. “They did not advocate for specific pending applications.”
Bukowsky also said the group discussed clemency in general. She said she’d been interested in clemency for a number of years.
“It’s a check on the judicial system, when there’s been an injustice or it’s been unduly harsh,” Bukowsky said. “It was really just to encourage the governor to remember the value of the pardon power and restore it to its former prominence.”
Parson, in his Dec. 21 announcement, directed his legal staff to continue reviewing clemency applications. His office said he would “keep working to reduce the backlog inherited by his administration.”
Sinquefield contributed nearly $2 million to Parson’s Uniting Missouri PAC since 2018, making him the largest individual donor to Parson’s successful election bid last year.
Mark Niebling, spokesman for Sinquefield, said Rex and Katie Sinquefield have had an interest in criminal justice reform for “a while.”
“They do a lot of things that they don’t really like to shout about or talk about,” Niebling said.
Bukowsky donated $300,000 in December to help Boone County address a waitlist for poor defendants seeking a public defender.
The state public defender’s office routinely requests more money than it receives from the state, with case backlogs emerging over the years.
Originally posted Tuesday at 2:30 p.m.