President George W. Bush's first-ever retraction of a pardon - for convicted real-estate scammer Isaac Toussie - has the potential to become a defining legal precedent. If so, Toussie, 37, will have found the weirdest way yet to follow in the footsteps of his businessman father Robert Toussie - who long ago had the U.S. Supreme Court void his own conviction for having failed to register for the draft.
The elder Toussie, now 67, drew attention in the pardon furor because he contributed $28,500 in April to the Republican National Committee and $2,300 to Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign five days later. In October, Toussie made $2,300 donations to GOP Sens. Norman Coleman of Minnesota and Gordon Smith of Oregon.
Today, after some GOP boosters called anti-Iraq war demonstrators traitors, and after the 2004 "Swift-boating" of veteran and Democrat John Kerry, who knows? Maybe Bush the "pardon decider," or his handlers, found Robert Toussie's once-famous but long-buried draft-dodge case as embarrassing as his campaign checks or the routine photos of the two shaking hands.
There are military veterans among the home buyers still suing Isaac Toussie and his companies, claiming they were sold poorly built houses at high prices. The younger Toussie pleaded guilty in 2001 to submitting false mortgage documents to a federal agency, and in 2002 to mail fraud for his role in selling the Chandler Estate in Mount Sinai to Suffolk County at an inflated price.
Thirty-seven years ago, news reports described how Robert Toussie of Brooklyn, said to be charming and academically brilliant, went into business manufacturing children's clothing and became a millionaire while still in his 20s. Unfortunately, Toussie failed to register with the Selective Service when he turned 18 in 1959, purportedly because his "pacifist beliefs" prevented contact with the military, even to claim conscientious-objector status. Looking back, that sounds like an odd stance for someone who in 2008 would contribute to the hawkish McCain, but circumstances do change over four decades. A Toussie lawyer didn't return a call to his office Friday.
A jury found Toussie guilty of dereliction - a conviction initially upheld on appeal. But in 1970, the Supreme Court overturned it, 5-3. The feds had said Toussie had a "continuing duty" to register until he turned 26 in 1967. Justice Hugo Black wrote for the majority that no such duty existed, so a five-year statute of limitations for charging Toussie had expired in 1964, five years after the time he was required to register.
"Completely illogical," fumed the dissent, joined by then Chief Justice Warren Burger.
Hundreds of thousands of other draft-evaders were granted an unconditional pardon by President Jimmy Carter seven years later, in the wake of the Vietnam War.
Remarkably, legal experts say the fate of the second Toussie's conviction could change pardon policy - a generation after the first Toussie v. U.S. was decided.