On February 28, USA Today reporter Gregory Korte received some unusual emails from professor and political expert P.S. Ruckman. Ruckman was a an expert on the subject of clemency and had been compiling a database of every Presidential pardon going back to George Washington. Korte was familiar with Ruckman's work, but Ruckman had previously been reluctant to share the full database before he completed the book he planned on writing.
So it was surprising to find the massive files containing all of Ruckman's data attached to the emails he sent to Korte, it represented his life's work. The only explanation Ruckman gave for this data dump was "Would want you to have this and use freely."
Korte later found out it was likely Ruckman's final act before he killed his two sons, and then himself.
Six days ago, a source of mine unexpectedly emailed me a treasure trove of data. So far as I know, it was the last thing he did before committing murder-suicide.— Gregory Korte (@gregorykorte) March 7, 2018
One of the things that made him such an authority was that he had painstakingly assembled, through countless hours of work at the National Archives, a comprehensive database of every pardon, commutation, respite and reprieve ever granted back to George Washington.— Gregory Korte (@gregorykorte) March 7, 2018
It was a great data set, and many times I asked if he wouldn't mind sharing it. But he said he was working on a book about the history of pardons and didn't want to release the data until that project was complete.— Gregory Korte (@gregorykorte) March 7, 2018
i kept in touch from time to time. Last year, when President Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio and people argued that it was unprecedented to pardon someone for contempt of court, Ruckman sent me a list of dozens of people pardoned for contempt back to President John Adams.— Gregory Korte (@gregorykorte) March 7, 2018
Still, I was a little surprised last Wednesday, when he emailed me the entire database -- in separate spreadsheets for each presidential administration, more than 30,000 records in all. "Would want you to have this and use freely," he wrote.— Gregory Korte (@gregorykorte) March 7, 2018
I emailed him back right away, saying I was on deadline but would call him later. When he didn't call me back by Monday, I got worried. I checked his web site and Twitter feed. Then I googled him.— Gregory Korte (@gregorykorte) March 7, 2018
I called the Winnebago County Sheriff, in case the emails help to establish his intent, or the timeline. Obviously, there are a lot of questions left unanswered, and the investigation continues.— Gregory Korte (@gregorykorte) March 7, 2018
I never met him in person, and can't presume to know what went so terribly wrong. I do know he was proud of his sons. Last year, he sent me a Youtube video of his 7th grader playing the National Anthem on guitar at a high school basketball game.— Gregory Korte (@gregorykorte) March 7, 2018
I also got the impression that his passion for the subject of pardons was rooted in fundamental Christian values of redemption and forgiveness. Tonight I'm struggling to reconcile those ideals with such an unpardonable act.— Gregory Korte (@gregorykorte) March 7, 2018
I'm not sure what I'll do with the data. He did important work, which now seems tainted. I do pray that God has mercy on his soul, and especially on the souls of his innocent sons.— Gregory Korte (@gregorykorte) March 7, 2018
Thank you for listening.
In his wake Ruckman has left colleagues and police struggling to understand his actions. Korte, among the others who received Ruckmans data wonder how to handle such important work "tainted" by such a tragic event. Though there are no plans as of yet the data may be released publicly in honor of Ruckman's two sons.
H/T - Twitter,