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A week after he lost his home in the Camp Fire, Jason James Burnett received news he’d waited years to hear.
The small business owner from Paradise received a pardon from Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday, wiping from his record a drug conviction that to Burnett represented a life he left behind long ago.
“Honestly, it was probably the best news I’ve had in two weeks,” said Burnett, 44.
Burnett’s pardon capped his long effort to distance himself from a youth he spent around drugs. Burnett said he was in and out of jail until he entered a rehab program in the early 2000s.
“My mother and my father were addicted to drugs and I was raised in that environment. I just got tired of doing that,” he said.
After rehab, he built a career and opened his own business, Weather Out Roofing..
Burnett in 2017 wrote to Brown’s office requesting a pardon for a 1994 drug manufacturing conviction. He was disappointed at Christmas a year ago when the governor did not include him in the batch of commutations and pardons that Brown usually releases at Christmas.
But, he held out hope. The pardon came less than two weeks after Burnett and his wife lost the home in Paradise where they’d lived for the past 18 years.
The document recognizes that he’s led “an honest and upright life” since his release from custody.
“It just was a goal for me because I didn’t want to be labeled as an ex-con or an ex-felon. I wanted to close the door on that part of my life,” he said.
The Burnetts are staying with family in Chico. They have not returned to their property. “We lost everything we owned,” he said.
“We’re trying to stay positive. We have insurance and everything. We’re not hopeless,” he said.
Burnett was working in Santa Cruz on the day that the Camp Fire tore through Paradise. His wife, Heather, had a close call bringing their dog to safety while flames burned houses around her.
“She must have called me twice or three times telling me goodbye,” Burnett said. “It’s been an emotional roller coaster, definitely, for the last two weeks.”