In the final days of his administration, this former police officer is richly deserving of a presidential pardon. Let’s help him.

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The following editorial is written by a retired Chief of Police and current staff writer for Law Enforcement Today. 

WASHINGTON, DC- As with any number of presidents nearing the end of a term, President Trump has issued pardons and commutations, having issued 26 pardons and three commutations just before Christmas.

Over his four years in the White House, the president has issued over 90 pardons or commutations. There is one case however which he hasn’t taken up yet. That is the case of Ariel Benjamin Mannes, a former law enforcement officer who would seem to be an outstanding candidate.

Mannes is currently a public safety contributor to media outlets like Newsmax, The Hill, City Journal, Broad + Liberty and the Daily Caller. 

This is his story.

Ariel “Ben” Mannes always wanted to be a police officer. Growing up with divorced parents in both Los Angeles and New York City prior to Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s crackdown on crime in 1990’s, Mannes personally saw crime explode in the crack cocaine era, riding the subway to school every morning from a station where a NYC Transit Police district was located. To him, those officers riding the train with him were larger than life. By the time he was in 10th grade, Mannes knew what his life calling would be.

While delivering pizzas in high school, Mannes was introduced to the commissioner of the Long Beach, NY police department by a retired New York City Police Detective that was mentoring him.

Thanks to this meeting, Mannes was given his first badge as a summer special police officer with the Long Beach Police Department when he turned 18, where he patrolled the beach and boardwalk for two summers while attending John Jay College of Criminal Justice in the city.

At around the same time, Mannes earned college credit through becoming an Auxiliary Police Officer with the NYPD, volunteering on foot patrol in the Manhattan Precinct where his college was.

It was during his second year in college when Mannes was hired as a Police Officer with the US Federal Protective Service. Mannes was assigned to the New York Terrorist Trials Operations Command, a details set up to provide extra security to courts and federal facilities following the first World Trade Center bombing. In this role, Mannes worked alongside US Marshals, NYPD, and Federal Bureau of Prisons officers.

Mannes’s goal was to work in a busy municipal environment, where he could gain the experience of being exposed to any number of different experiences.

In 1999, Mannes relocated to our nation’s capital, Washington, DC, where he joined the Metropolitan Police Department. As part of his duties, Mannes worked in patrol, mountain bike, plain-clothes assignments, and as a member of the Civil Disturbance Unit. He also participated in an extended detail with the Synchronized/Joint Operations Command Center and served during incidents such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and the DC Sniper investigation.

Mannes got certified as a Community Anti-Terrorism Instructor, hosted visiting law enforcement at annual police memorial weeks, and was a shooter on his department’s team at the International Law Enforcement Games and World Police & Fire Games in two consecutive years. In other words, this was a dedicated and highly motivated law enforcement official, highly involved in training and recipient of numerous commendations.

Even in his work outside the department, Mannes served with Highway Information Sharing and Analysis Center, where he was an embedded intelligence analyst at Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Operations Center and granted a secret security clearance.

It was here that Mannes was recruited by the Transportation Security Administration, who brought Mannes aboard during the development a new rail inspection program designed to enhance security for commuters and freight operators across the country.

Among his accomplishments, Mannes helped get rail lines open for evacuations during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, opening supply lines to law enforcement in New Orleans and the gulf coast.

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Mannes was (and is) no slouch…and this background is to establish the kind of person he was…a decorated, highly respected law enforcement official…when his whole world changed in the blink of an eye.

On November 6, 2005, Mannes was employed at as an Inspector for the TSA’s Surface Transportation Security program, he had a secret security clearance, and had obtained concealed carry permits in both Virginia (where he lived) and Florida. Those two permits allowed him to carry in 31 states due to reciprocal agreements, however he was unable to apply for and/or receive a Washington, DC permit at that time, under a local prohibition against the issuance of all gun permits.  

As a means to supplement his income, Mannes worked part-time at the upscale Tuscana Restaurant in Washington, DC. It was during that employment that Mannes had occasion to see an employee at the restaurant struggling to remove an intoxicated customer, who was fighting inside the restaurant. Mannes saw the struggle, noticing that the customer was swinging a pint glass in his hand at the head of the employee.

Mannes disarmed the intoxicated customer of the glass, at which point he swung and hit Mannes in the face. Mannes then attempted to take the intoxicated customer down, who landed into a tree planter on the sidewalk. It was at this point that four other people emerged from the crowd, surrounded Mannes and were physically attempting to pull him away from the customer.

Fearing he was about to be overtaken by the bystanders, he displayed his DHS-issued badge, and credentials. When the crowd continued to advance, Mannes pulled his concealed firearm, then retreated to call 911.

Long story short, the four bystanders lied to responding officers, claiming that Mannes had kicked the customer in the face while he was on the ground. Without checking surveillance footage from the restaurant or interviewing the [sober] staff on the scene, Mannes was placed under arrest for aggravated assault upon The customer.

Mannes tried to explain that if he was the one who had called 911 about the four bystanders who were surrounding him; who claimed that he had assaulted the customer as he lay on the ground, they also claimed that Mannes had been “wildly” waving his gun at them.

Months later, after lawyers were able to locate him, the customer swore in an affidavit that stated he was never assaulted by Mannes.

Regardless, Mannes was locked up over the weekend, but when he was presented in court that Monday, he had only been charged with Carrying a Pistol Without a License. It should be noted that this all occurred before the landmark cases, DC v Heller, McDonald v Chicago and Grace v DC declared the very law that he was charged with unconstitutional.

In other words at the time of his arrest, the District of Columbia did not recognize the right of individuals, to include current and former law enforcement, to obtain permits to carry firearms, nor did they give reciprocity to any other jurisdictions, including Virginia, which directly borders DC.

At the time of his arrest, Mannes could not afford a private attorney, therefore he was represented by a public defender, who convinced him to plead guilty to the carrying without charge, and a later added a misdemeanor charge of false impersonation of a police officer. Why was this added? Because DHS credentials are only regulatory in nature, did not carry firearms privileges and was not reinstated to MPD as had been ordered.

The DC public defender convinced Mannes that as a law enforcement officer, it would be difficult if not impossible to meet with a fair jury in DC. With a fear of facing a five-year mandatory sentence in mind, Mannes took the plea deal where he was served one year of non-supervised probation. This was however in D.C., the only jurisdiction where mere possession of a weapon permitted in another jurisdiction carries a felony record, which is a misdemeanor offense in virtually every other jurisdiction in America.

After the affidavit clearing his name was obtained, and the Supreme Court ruled on Heller, Mannes sought to file a writ of coran nobis with the DC Superior Court. This is when there is an error not presented on the record in the trial court, and the error may have produced a different judgment at trial. 

The writ included the overturning of DC’s unconstitutional gun law, the customer’s sworn affidavit denying he had been assaulted by Mannes and the failure of police to review CCTV footage and/or interview witnesses at the scene.  The writ was summarily denied, citing that Mannes waved his rights when taking a plea.

The problem lies with the fact that Washington, DC is not a state, where he would have had the opportunity to apply for clemency on a state level and clear his name. Since DC has no clemency authority, his only opportunity is to seek a presidential pardon.

It has been fifteen years since Mannes’s ordeal. Since then, he has become a nationally-recognized professional in security, compliance, and investigations.

He has continued training and education, finishing his Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice and earning a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership.

He became a Certified Protection Professional (CPP), considered to be the most prestigious security certification in the world. Mannes served for over eight years as the Director of Investigations for the American Board of Internal Medicine and has provided security and integrity consulting for state education departments and schools – among other clients.

This led to his service on advisory boards, and being published in The Hill, Washington Times, Newsmax, Philadelphia Inquirer, Buffalo News, Arizona Republic, Daily Caller, Security Magazine, Broad + Liberty, City Journal, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

At his trial and clemency package, Mannes received dozens of letters of references from people ranging from police chiefs to television producers; having had a positive impact throughout a stellar career, save this one incident.

The trial judge in fact felt that due to his standing as a police officer, his training kicked in, and while acknowledging that Mannes should not have pointed his gun at people. Still, she acknowledged that he “reacted like law enforcement” and that he “reacted like law enforcement instead of recognizing that he had crossed the boundary into the District of Columbia.”

Aside from the Heller case, the overarching ruling which should serve to benefit Mannes is Grace v. District of Columbia, Civil Action No. 2015-2234 (D.D.C. 2017).

The case looked at the restriction the District of Columbia placed on citizens whereby the District’s so-called “good reason” requirement “placed an unconstitutional burden on the individual right, enshrined in the Second Amendment, to carry firearms for self-defense both in and outside of the home” and permanently enjoined DC from denying concealed carry licenses to applicants who meet eligibility requirements.

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President Trump has been a champion of criminal justice reform. In fact, his administration has committed itself to fixing what were believed to be politically-motivated sentences, and also granting much deserved second chances to Americans who have made mistakes, however have a longstanding record of working to improve their communities and engaging in positive steps toward that end.

Some of those pardoned by President Trump have been well known—Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, and Former NYPD Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik. Some of those pardoned have been lesser known. I would argue that Ariel Mannes falls somewhere in the middle.

Besides Kerik, the president has already pardoned a number of law enforcement and military officials who have been caught up in situations which spun out of control. Among those already pardoned include:

  • Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was charged with contempt bid for which he had been convicted and not yet sentenced.
  • Stephanie Mohr, the former Prince George’s County K-9 Officer who was sentenced to a punitive ten years in prison for setting her dog loose on an unarmed burglary suspect. She received a pardon in 2020.
  • Michael Behenna was an armed services member pardoned in 2019 by the president, having been convicted of murdering an Iraqi combatant by a military court martial. Behenna claimed acute stress disorder (similar to PTSD) and self-defense.
  • Former California Assemblyman Pat Nolan, also a L.A. County Sheriff’s Reserve Deputy, who served 26 months in jail for soliciting illegal campaign contributions. After being released from jail in 1996, Nolan became a criminal justice reform activist. He was pardoned in 2019.

There are others, but there are also those, like Mannes who continue to serve and who are an asset to society who are waiting for their turn many years after their mistakes were made.

Those included Don Michael Ayala, a former Army ranger and commended war hero who ended up returning to Afghanistan as a civilian contractor. Ayala was one of the first people convicted by an Obama-era initiative where US civilian contractors could be prosecuted in US courts for crimes committed in foreign countries; for killing an insurgent who had burned Army sociologist Paula Lloyd alive. Due to his conviction, Ayala, who trained the forces protecting Afghan President Hamid Karzai, cannot regain his security clearance, nor work in his expert field due to his conviction.

Finally, Joseph Occhipinti was a federal agent assigned to drug gangs and trafficking in the New York City area in the crack boom of the 80’s and 90’s. He was imprisoned then released by President George H. W. Bush for allegedly conducting illegal searches and filing false police reports.

After being released, Occhipinti founded the National Police Defense Foundation which provides legal and medical support services to the law enforcement community. He also runs the “Safe Cop” program, a congressionally recognized endeavor that posts rewards for information leading to arrest and conviction of those who shoot police officers.

Even though Occhipinti was released from prison by President Bush in 1993, his conviction stands without a pardon. So, he cannot run for public office, nor expand his work advocating for public safety in the public sector.

I have worked in law enforcement for nearly 32 years, including the rank of Chief of Police. Cases like that of Ariel Mannes seems to clearly be one where he, having no other means available to clear his name and continue to serve his community, should be able to receive a pardon from President Trump.

As the Trump Administration winds down, people inside the White House are, prioritizing higher profile type cases that have political cache or involve those who may be “connected” as opposed to simple former public servants like Mannes, whose application has been pending for almost five years, or those like Ayala and Occhipinti.

With the understanding that President Trump and his team have a lot on their plates, those of us at Law Enforcement Today hope that President Trump and his team thoughtfully consider issuing a pardon for Ariel Benjamin Mannes, case # P191423, as well as other former law enforcement and military members who deserve the second chance of a presidential pardon.

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