President's suggestion of Ali pardon confuses some in Louisville and beyond

Trump's talk of Ali pardon confuses some in Louisville, beyond
University of Louisville Law Professor Sam Marcosson. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
University of Louisville Law Professor Sam Marcosson. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - President Trump has announced or is considering several celebrity pardons, but one in particular that he brought up Friday had people in Louisville and beyond feeling confused.

The President suggested a posthumous pardon for late boxing champ Muhammad Ali's conviction for refusing military service.

The reason people are confused: there is no conviction. It was overturned decades ago.

President Trump's celebrity pardon list is getting bigger. Martha Stewart suggested giving a posthumous pardon to former heavyweight boxer Jack Johnson, He also pardoned drug offender Alice Johnson after a push from reality star Kim Kardashian. But the President's latest suggestion took many people off guard.

"I'm thinking about Muhammad Ali. I'm thinking about that very seriously," President Trump told reporters on Friday morning, referring to additional pardons he might issue.

"This was very odd -- that the President would be even consider exercising the pardon power for someone that it doesn't apply to," University of Louisville Law Professor Sam Marcosson said of the suggestion.

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Muhammad Ali was convicted of refusing military service in 1967 when he said "no" to Vietnam based on religious convictions and claimed exemption as a minister of the religion of Islam.

In a well-documented court battle, the star was stripped of his boxing title and license and lost prime fight years, but Ali never went to prison -- he appealed and his conviction was unanimously overturned by the Supreme Court in 1971.

"We appreciate President Trump's sentiment, but a pardon is unnecessary," Ali Family Attorney Ron Tweel, who represents Lonnie Ali and the Ali estate, said.

"There is no conviction from which a pardon is needed," Tweel continued.

Tweel's personal opinion of the pardon, one which does not represent that of the family, was that he's not surprised.

"He's [President Trump] made, over the last year and a half, many statements demonstrating his lack of knowledge of U.S. history and of government and the law," Tweel said.

UofL Law Professor Sam Marcosson said while there is nothing to pardon, the President could make a symbolic gesture -- such as a presidential proclamation -- indicating he believes the federal government's prosecution of Ali was unjust.

"If the President wants to make a gesture, a symbolic gesture, that he believes the federal government never should have prosecuted Muhammad Ali in the first place, then he can certainly do that," Marcosson said. "He can make a statement, some sort of proclamation that the prosecution itself was unjust."

Meanwhile, the publicity boost gives the Ali Center some added press for the I am Ali Festival as it comes to an end. From 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, visitors will find live music, food and drink vendors and a live butterfly garden to enjoy.

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