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WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 25: U.S. President Barack Obama pardons a turkey named "Courage" as daughter Sasha (2nd R) looks on during an event to pardon the 20-week-old and 45-pound turkey at the North Portico of the White House November 25, 2009 in Washington, DC. The Presidential pardon of a turkey has been a long time Thanksgiving tradition that dates back to the Harry Truman administration. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama has granted the first pardons of his presidency, to nine people convicted of crimes including a Rockford woman convicted of dealing drugs.
The White House announced the pardon of Floretta Leavy and eight other people as Obama was in the air on the way home from a surprise visit to Afghanistan.
Leavy was sentenced in federal court 26 years ago to 366 days in prison and three years of parole for drug offenses.
No one well-known was on the list, and some of the crimes dated back decades or had drawn little more than a slap on the wrist in the first place -- such as the Pennsylvania man sentenced in 1963 to probation and a $20 fine for mutilating coins. The mutilation of coins occurred when a young Marine made dimes out of pennies, cutting the lip off, to use the coins in vending machines.
Presidential pardons often come in the holiday season toward year's-end, but they can sometimes be extremely controversial, such as when Bill Clinton pardoned fugitive financier Marc Rich at the end of his presidency.
President George W. Bush drew heat for commuting the sentence of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, in the case of the 2003 leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity. But Bush rejected Cheney's vigorous urging that he later pardon Libby as well.
"The president was moved by the strength of the applicants' post-conviction efforts at atonement, as well as their superior citizenship and individual achievements in the years since their convictions," said White House spokesman Reid Cherlin.
Obama has received 551 pardon petitions in the course of his presidency, of which he's denied 131, according to the Justice Department. Another 265 petitions were closed without presidential action.