California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced 10 pardons on December 23, including at least two stemming from cannabis-related charges. Some of the charges are decades old, and one charge dates back to 1973. The list of pardons includes some of the ways people have changed their lives since the times of their convictions.
The governor recognized some of the systems in place that are “counterproductive” to public safety when you look at the big picture. Convictions can haunt a person’s life, leading to deportation, permanent family separation, or other consequences.
“The California Constitution gives the Governor the authority to grant pardons,” Gov. Newsom’s announcement reads. “The Governor regards clemency as an important part of the criminal justice system that can incentivize accountability and rehabilitation and increase public safety by removing counterproductive barriers to successful reentry. A pardon may also remove unjust collateral consequences of conviction, such as deportation and permanent family separation.
Pardons do not forgive or minimize the harm caused by crime. Instead, these pardons recognize the pardon grantees’ self-development and rehabilitation since then.”
In the announcement, the governor noted how victims of crimes were heavily considered in making these decisions. “The Governor’s Office encourages victims, survivors and witnesses to register with CDCR’s Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services to receive information about an incarcerated person’s status. The office also posted more general information about victim services.
The pardons include information on ways people have made changes. Some people on the list even went into substance abuse or other types of counseling. Below are the ten people who received pardons from the governor:
John Berger, sentenced in 1995 for transporting a controlled substance. Berger now works to support others with their sobriety.
Lucas Beltran Dominguez, sentenced in 2008 for transporting or selling cannabis and possession of cannabis for sale. Dominguez is now a father of seven and is an active member of his church.
Michael Farrier, sentenced in 1990 for first degree burglary and second degree robbery.
Kimberly Gregorio, sentenced in 1988 for possession of a controlled substance for sale and obstructing an officer.
James King, III, sentenced in 1988 for the sale of cocaine.
Santiago Lopez, sentenced in 2000 for possession of cannabis for sale, in 2004 for possession of cannabis for sale, and in 2001 for possession of a controlled substance for sale and possession of cannabis for sale. Lopez is now a facility manager of his church and a peer counselor.
Kenneth Lyerly, sentenced in 2004 for possession of a controlled substance for sale.
Jimmy Platon, sentenced in 1973 for trespassing and in 1978 for possession of a controlled substance for sale.
Julie Ruehle, sentenced in 1999 for two cases, one for possession of a controlled substance and the other for taking a vehicle without consent.
Kathy Uetz, sentenced in 1991 for possession of a controlled substance and in 1997 for possession of a controlled substance for sale. Uetz volunteered over 5,000 hours with a community emergency response team.
To date, Gov. Newsom has granted a total of 140 pardons, 123 commutations, and 35 reprieves while in office.
Similar efforts are being made by the governor’s office. Gov. Newsom also signed a bill into law in September 2022 that will create the option for an alternate plea to individuals facing certain drug convictions. The “Alternate Plea Act” enables prosecutors to offer some defendants who have been charged with drug-related offenses a public nuisance plea. Under the law, prosecutors will be able to offer the public nuisance plea at their discretion.
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