Governor Chris Christie’s office responded to a constituent who had written in support of Shaneen Allen with a phone call stating that the separation of powers prevents the Governor from intervening in the Atlantic County prosecution.
Allen is a 27 year old single mother who is facing a possible 10 years in State Prison for bringing her Pennsylvania licensed handgun into New Jersey. She is being prosecuted by Atlantic County Prosecutor James McClain, a Christie appointee. McClain refused to allow Allen to enter the same Pre-Trial Intervention Program for first offenders that former Baltimore Ravens star Ray Rice was admitted to after he knocked out his then fiancee in an Atlantic City casino elevator last February.
Last week, McClain requested a three week adjournment in the case. This was seen as a sign by Allen’s supporters that McClain is reconsidering his decision to prosecute due to the public outcry since the video of Rice beating his fiancee became public.
In the call from Christie’s office this afternoon to James Hogan of Howell Township, a young sounding man left a message stating that he was calling from the Governor’s office. Hogan forwarded the message to MMM:
“Hi, This message is for Mr. James Hogan. I’m calling from the Governor’s office in regards to your letter about the Shaneen Allen case. I wanna let you know that the Governor is aware of the situation. However, due to the separation of powers the Governor does not have the jurisdiction to intervene at this time. If you have any further questions, you can give us a call back. At Have a nice day sir.”
Listen to the recording here:
At his press conference in Long Branch last month, Christie said he was following the Allen case closely and that he would not take action, a pardon or the commutation of sentence, if she is convicted, until after the legal process had run its course.
The New Jersey Constitution gives the Governor broad powers regarding pardons. Article II Section II.1 states:
1. The Governor may grant pardons and reprieves in all cases other than impeachment and treason, and may suspend and remit fines and forfeitures. A commission or other body may be established by law to aid and advise the Governor in the exercise of executive clemency.
N.J. Stat. § 2A:167-3.1 provides that the Governor will report to the Legislature each reprieve, pardon, and commutation granted, stating the name of the convicted person, the crime for which the person was convicted, the sentence imposed, its date, the date of the pardon, reprieve or commutation and the reasons for granting same.
The statute requires that the Governor report to the Legislature the name of convicted persons who are issued a pardon, reprieve or commutation. However, the statute does not appear to prohibit the Governor from issuing a preemptive pardon.
Christie’s spokesman Michael Drewniak declined to address whether the governor has the legal power to intervene in the case prior to trial. Rather, Drewniak referred to Christie’s public statements to the effect that he is following the case closely and will consider a pardon or commutation after the case has been adjudicated if he believes justice has not been done.