WASHINGTON (JTA) — Rep. Michael Grimm became the first Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives to back the latest push for clemency for Jonathan Pollard.
Grimm, a freshman from Staten Island, N.Y., says in a YouTube clip posted Tuesday by a supporter of the convicted spy for Israel that he visited Pollard at his North Carolina prison two weeks ago.
"As a former FBI agent, someone who has fought for justice most of my life, we have to acknowledge that the penalty does not necessarily meet the crime and most would say that it’s excessive," Grimm said. "I am working with many others in Washington, we are doing what we can to have justice prevail, and justice in the case is to have Jonathan Pollard released from prison."
Grimm also noted that Pollard has acknowledged that what he did was wrong.
Pollard, who has been imprisoned since his 1985 arrest, was sentenced to life in 1987.
The most recent push for clemency has garnered substantive support among congressional Democrats, and a range of former officials of both Republican and Democratic administrations, but a major stumbling block is believed to be the reluctance of sitting GOP lawmakers — heeding a hard-line national security base — to endorse clemency.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) earlier this month became the first sitting GOP lawmaker to back the latest push for clemency.
Also this week, some 100 New York State legislators signed a letter — circulated by Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) and state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver — sent to President Obama calling for clemency for Pollard, which would reduce his prison sentence to time served.