In a holiday tradition, Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday announced 112 pardons and one commutation, mostly for years-old offenses involving marijuana and other drugs and lower-level crimes such as robberies and assaults.
Brown to date has extended 854 holiday-timed pardons and commutations since 2011. The Democrat also has led changes to the criminal justice system in his second stint as governor, including shifting responsibility for lower-level offenders to counties and a successful fall initiative to change parole rules for prisoners.
Brown’s previous three predecessors combined for just 28 pardons. Prior governors were more in line with Brown’s approach, each issuing hundreds.
Following his habit of extending leniency around Christmas and Easter, Brown granted 59 gubernatorial pardons this spring and 91 last winter, including actor Robert Downey Jr., a supporter who spent more than a year in prison after being convicted in 1996 of possessing a controlled substance, carrying a concealed weapon in his vehicle and driving under the influence. None of this year’s recipients is a household name.
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Brown commuted the 32-years-to-life prison sentence of Louis Calderon to 22 years to life. Calderon was sentenced in April 2000 to seven years for attempted murder, plus 25 years for having a firearm.
In applying for executive clemency, Calderon wrote, “I have taken the opportunity over the years of my incarceration to better myself and prepare myself to re-enter society as a productive citizen.”
Brown stated in the order that over Calderon’s nearly 18 years in prison, he dropped out of his former gang and was never disciplined for a rule violation.
“Mr. Calderon has worked to improve his education, earning multiple community college degrees and a paralegal certificate,” Brown wrote. “He has routinely received above average and exceptional work ratings and has put thousands of hours into his work with the Prison Industry Authority.”
He added: “This is a very serious crime, but it is clear that Mr. Calderon has distinguished himself by his exemplary conduct in prison and his forthright and continuing separation from gang activities of any kind. For all of the foregoing reasons, I conclude that it is appropriate to mitigate his sentence.”
Only after living crime-free for a decade, completing their sentence, and receiving a court-issued certificate of rehabilitation (if they still live in California) can a former criminal become eligible for a pardon. Among the potential benefits are being able to own a gun or serve on juries.
Pardons go only to those “who have demonstrated exemplary behavior and have lived productive and law-abiding lives following their conviction,” the Governor’s Office said, and “are not granted unless they are earned.”
Among the recipients are:
▪ Hobert Gary Porterfield Jr., who was sentenced in San Diego County in 1999 for gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, and hit and run with death or injury. Porterfield served one year in jail and six years’ probation and was discharged on June 18, 2005. He was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy, works as a firefighter and coaches youth baseball and football teams.
▪ A man who was sentenced in Los Angeles County for assault with a deadly weapon, specifically, for beating his best friend with a dowel while intoxicated.
▪ A man sentenced in Los Angeles County in 1965 who was believed to be involved in the theft of record players.
▪ For using fraud to obtain food stamps, a woman who was sentenced to 30 days in jail in Orange County.
Friday’s pardon list also includes several people who had been convicted of capital-area crimes ranging from possession of marijuana for sale to possession of a controlled substance for sale.