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Studio 54 co-owner Ian Schrager among those pardoned by Obama this week

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Studio 54 Owners Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager in The NY Daily News, 1980

Like most departing presidents before him Barack Obama pardoned an commuted sentences of a lot of people in his final week in office (he also holds the record for most pardons ever by a president). Among them hotel magnate Ian Schrager who was also co-owner of Manhattan’s most famous nightclub of the disco era, Studio 54. Schrager was convicted in 1980 of felony tax evasion charges, accused of hiding Studio 54 money from the government (literally, as in money in trashbags hidden above the ceiling). He and co-owner Steve Rubell spent a year in prison. From The New York Times:

“I wanted it for closure. I wanted it for my family,” he said. “It’s hard to be a good example for your kids when you did something like what I did, and you try to teach your kids to live by the rules and be an upstanding person.”

Mr. Schrager applied in 2012 for the pardon, which restores civil liberties like voting but does not expunge a criminal record, and he waited each year for a decision, with no word back. The lawyer who helped with Mr. Schrager’s pardon application, H. P. Goldfield, said it was not his client’s financial success or connections that ultimately made his pardon application successful, but how Mr. Schrager had lived his life in the years since he left prison.

“It’s not just saying, ‘I’m sorry.’ There has got to be a sense that the person is really remorseful and admits their wrongdoing and that they’ve lived an exemplary life ever since,” Mr. Goldfield said, pointing to the thousands of jobs that Mr. Schrager’s company had created and his history as a mentor to young people. “He has really lived an exemplary life. He asked for forgiveness, and the president saw it in his heart to forgive.”

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