The Pope, the Councilwoman, and the Unrepentant Terrorist
Back in 1999, President Bill Clinton committed a brazen, outrageous, and controversial act. He offered clemency to 16 violent Puerto Rican nationalists, including 12 members of the notorious FALN (Armed Forces of National Liberation). The deadly domestic terrorist group waged a ten-year war of terror against the United States that began in 1974. They were responsible for more than 130 bombings in numerous American cities, killing six and injuring scores more, including several members of the NYPD. Their deadliest attack was on the historic Fraunces Tavern in lower Manhattan on January 24, 1975, where four were killed and 60 injured.
It was later discovered that then-deputy attorney general Eric Holder had been advocating for these terrorists' release beginning in 1997, and that First Lady Hillary Clinton's staff thought it might help her among the substantial Puerto Rican vote in New York State in her quest to become a U.S. senator in 2000, even though few on the commonwealth have ever supported independence. Unknown at the time, Hillary had passed along information regarding clemency to her husband just two days before his offer was made, but the 12 unrepentant terrorists rejected the terms of the agreement to renounce violence.
They were then given a month to ponder the deal, and as the scandal erupted, Hillary's position on the offer continued to oscillate. As time was running out, 11 of the terrorists finally accepted, and on September 10, 1999, a mass exodus began from federal prisons around the country. But one member of the group turned down the offer: FALN co-founder and co-leader Oscar Lopez-Rivera. He had instructed the other members of the group on how to make bombs, and once he was captured, he remained remorseless and later plotted twice to escape from prison.
Fortunately, the FBI foiled both plots before they were carried out, and the latter plan added 15 years to Lopez's sentence, bringing the total to 70 years. Lopez remained unapologetic, later saying that "the whole thing of contrition, atonement, I have problems with that." But in 2010, Lopez decided that he's been in prison long enough, and he petitioned the U.S. Parole Commission for release.
In January 2011, during an emotional parole hearing at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, four victims of FALN, including Joseph and Thomas Connor, who lost their 33-year-old father Frank during the Fraunces bombing, faced off with the still unrepentant Lopez, even though they hoped that he was willing to express remorse. They received nothing. In an often rambling and incoherent manner, Lopez admitted being a member of FALN but insisted that there was no blood on his hands.
The parole examiner ruled that he was going to recommend that Lopez serve his time, depending on his behavior, until at least 2023. The full commission upheld the decision the following month.
Chairman Issac Fulwood noted that "we have to look at whether the release would depreciate the seriousness of the offenses or promote disrespect for the law ... and the specific characteristics of the offender." But many of those in the Lopez camp refused to accept defeat. They were led by far-left New York City councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito. In 2014, she was elevated to speaker, and her tenure has often been controversial. She had refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance or cover her heart during its recital until it became a campaign issue. Also in 2014, she had the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade named in honor of Lopez, who remained an unrepentant terrorist. She continues to visit Lopez at the prison in Terre Haute.
Recently, Viverito committed a truly reprehensible act.
During the visit to America of Pope Francis, the councilwoman (who has claimed to have no religious affiliation) approached him during an appearance he made at an elementary school in East Harlem and gave him a portrait of the pope that Lopez had drawn in prison, plus a "letter" about his case. She then tweeted that "as we parted, I asked for a prayer for Oscar." Perhaps Viverito hopes that the pope will recommend clemency for Lopez-Rivera to President Obama.
One can be fairly sure that neither Lopez nor Ms. Viverito has said any prayers for those killed by the FALN, or the many lives affected by their heinous actions.
As for Lopez, he has yet to express any remorse for the death and destruction caused by the group he founded and trained. For any plea to be made on his behalf to the pontiff is beyond disgraceful.