President Trump has granted clemency for Edward DeBartolo, Jr., the former owner of the San Francisco 49ers football team, who pleaded guilty two decades ago for failing to report a felony.
Deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley, flanked by several former NFL players, announced the full presidential pardon Tuesday morning outside the White House.
“I take my hat off to Donald Trump for what he did,” said former 49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice, calling it a “great day.”
DeBartolo testified in a gambling fraud and corruption case against former Louisiana governor Edwin W. Edwards (D) in 1998. DeBartolo said the governor extorted him for $400,000 in exchange for approval of a riverboat casino license. DeBartolo paid the money and the state licensing board unanimously approved his project.
For failing to report the governor’s bribe, DeBartolo, a billionaire, had to pay $1 million in fines, was placed on two year’s probation and handed the NFL team over to his sister.
DeBartolo, who spread his campaign donations between Democrats and Republicans for decades, has in the last two years given the maximum contribution just three candidates, all Republicans, according to OpenSecrets donor database.
There’s no indication that DeBartolo donated to Trump’s presidential campaign, but in 2016 he co-hosted a pre-inauguration day party that honored several individuals close to Trump, including former Trump attorney Michael Cohen and former White House aide Omarosa Manigault.
Most of Trump’s 24 presidential pardons have gone to well-connected individuals who have a direct line to him or influence among his supporters.
The DeBartolo family has strong ties to northeastern Ohio, a region likely to be important to Trump’s reelection campaign.