Rapper and former Fugees producer John Forté was one of 14 people pardoned by President Bush on Monday, according to Reuters. He had been serving a sentence of 14 years in prison since 2001, after being found guilty of possession of 31 pounds of liquid cocaine with intent to distribute.
The presidential pardons, which were for offenses ranging from distribution of marijuana to unauthorized use of a pesticide, cannot be overruled and can help the recipients find jobs, live in public housing and vote. Bush has received more than 2,000 requests for pardons, which typically come fast and furious near the end of a president’s term.
Forté — who studied violin at the prestigious Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire as a youth — co-wrote and produced two songs on the Fugees’ Grammy-winning 1996 smash, The Score. Two years later, he released his debut, Poly Sci, on which Fugees member Wyclef Jean has an executive-producer credit.
Forté was arrested in 2000 at Newark International Airport after accepting a briefcase containing $1.4 million worth of cocaine. He released his confessional second album, 2002’s I, John, while already serving his sentence at Pennsylvania’s Lorreto Federal Penitentiary.
I, John featured an unexpected duet with ’70s legend Carly Simon on “Been There, Done That,” which came about through Forté’s friendship with Simon’s son, Ben Taylor. Simon and Taylor have long advocated on Forté’s behalf, arguing that the MC did not receive a fair trial and that his sentence was unfair considering it was his first offense and he was a nonviolent offender.
According to TMZ, Simon has been lobbying a number of politicians, including Senators Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch, “religiously” on Forté’s behalf. He will leave federal prison next month, TMZ said. A spokesperson for Forté had not returned requests for comment at press time.