Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday granted clemency to 21 individuals who have demonstrated substantial evidence of remorse, rehabilitation and a commitment to the community.
"In New York, we believe the law should be just, as well as compassionate." Governor Cuomo said.
"Government is uniquely situated to harness the power of redemption, encourage those who have committed crimes to engage in meaningful rehabilitation and help those individuals work toward a better future for themselves and others.
"Those receiving pardons have, for years, demonstrated they are strong functioning members of their community and deserving of a clean slate that will allow them to escape the stigma of a long-ago conviction. Those receiving sentence commutations have undergone a successful rehabilitation, demonstrated true remorse their actions and shown themselves to be worthy of a chance to re-enter society.
"These clemencies are another step toward a more fair and a more empathetic New York and I thank the devoted volunteer attorneys representing clemency applicants for their dedication and pursuit of justice and rehabilitation."
Among those pardoned by Cuomo included Kaydian McKenzie, 43, was convicted of Criminal Possession of Marijuana in the Second Degree and Criminal Trespass in the Third Degree in 2001 and 2002.
McKenzie has been crime free for 18 years, is a registered nurse, and has worked at a nursing home in New York State throughout the COVID-19 public health crisis. In addition to her role as a frontline worker, Ms. McKenzie is the mother of three U.S. citizen and is active in her local church, where she has volunteered with a program that delivers food to older New Yorkers who are living alone. A pardon will help Ms. McKenzie remain in the United States with her family.
Rosario Pena, 61, was convicted of Petit Larceny and Attempted Robbery in the Second Degree in 1981 and 1986. Ms. Pena was forced to commit these crimes by sex traffickers to whom she fell victim. After a childhood marred by abuse, homelessness and years of victimization by traffickers, Ms. Pena has now been crime free for 34 years. A pardon will allow Ms. Pena to remain in the United States, where she has lived for more than 50 years.
Alejandro Padilla, 57, was convicted of Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Fifth Degree in 2005. Mr. Padilla's conviction occurred in the years following a life-altering accident in which he was struck by a car and severely injured. He struggled with the physical and psychological impact of his injuries.
He has been crime free for nearly 16 years, has no other criminal convictions, and lives in the United States with a large and close-knit family, including his partner of over 25 years and six U.S. citizen children. A pardon will allow Mr. Padilla to remain in the United States with his family.
Rosa Sosa Vega, 59, was convicted of Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree in 1991. Ms. Sosa Vega was convicted shortly after arriving in the United States following her escape from an abusive relationship in another country. While serving her sentence, she earned her GED and underwent substance abuse treatment. In nearly three decades she has not had a criminal conviction. She lives in New York with her sons, grandchildren, and other members of her family. She is actively involved in her church community. A pardon will allow Ms. Sosa Vega to remain in the United States with her family.
Harrison Redd, 67, was convicted of Attempted Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree in 1996. Mr. Redd's conviction occurred during an extremely difficult period in his life, after he lost his job to an injury and became homeless following a fire that destroyed his apartment.
Mr. Redd has lived in the United States for more than 40 years and has been crime free for the past 24 years. A pardon will help him fulfill his dream of becoming a U.S. citizen.
Salvador Sabino Jimenez, 63, was convicted of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree, Robbery in the First Degree, and Attempted Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Third Degree. Mr. Jimenez has obtained his Bachelor's and PhD in Divinity. He founded the Salvador Evangelistic Association and Church in 1990. The church now has 1,200 members domestically and 200 international sites. He is an author of four books, including an autobiography in which he discusses his personal path to rehabilitation. He has also assisted in post-hurricane relief work in Puerto Rico.
He has ten honorary awards, six of which are proclamations from New York State legislators, mostly pertaining to his hurricane relief efforts. He has been crime-free for 34 years. A pardon will allow him to become a U.S. citizen and more freely travel internationally to do relief work with his church.
Natasha Joseph, 34, was convicted of Attempted Forgery in the Second Degree in 2012. Ms. Joseph has no other criminal convictions and has been crime free for 8 years while working in a supervisory position in the restaurant industry. She is a single mother of two young children, both of whom are U.S. citizens. A pardon will allow Ms. Joseph to remain in the United States with her children.
Victor Medina, 53, was convicted of Attempted Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree in 1998. In the 22 years since, Mr. Medina has been gainfully employed, first working in construction and then as a truck driver. He now works as a school bus driver, transporting children with disabilities to school in New York City. Much of Mr. Medina's immediate family resides in the United States, including his son who is a Marine Corps veteran and served in Afghanistan. A pardon will help Mr. Medina remain in the United States with his family.
Edouard Connor, 52, was convicted in 1992 and 1993 of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Fifth Degree and prostitution-related offenses, including Loitering for the Purposes of Prostitution. Mr. Connor has not had a criminal conviction for 27 years and has worked as a buyer and window display designer for a clothing retailer for nearly two decades. He is deeply involved in New York's vibrant Caribbean-American community, running a company that designs elaborate costumes for Carnival celebrations in New York and around the world and participating in cultural and educational events for youth in his community. A pardon will allow Mr. Connor to remain in the U.S. with his family, including his partner, mother, and siblings.
Zouhair Mouflih, 43, was convicted of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree in 2000. Mr. Mouflih was 22 years old at the time of the crime. Since his conviction, he has been employed in the food service industry in New York City. Mr. Mouflihis married to a U.S. citizen and has a U.S. citizen daughter. He has been crime free for 20 years. A pardon will allow him to remain in the United States with his wife and child.
Jolanta Wisniewska, 58, was convicted of Petit Larceny and Attempted Petit Larceny between 2005 and 2013. Her crimes involved shoplifting and were non-violent. She has been crime free for 7 years. She has been married to a U.S. citizen and has two children and three grandchildren. She is currently a caregiver to her elderly mother, who is also a U.S. citizen. A pardon will help Ms. Wisniewska remain in the United States and become a U.S. citizen as well.
Rafael Hernandez, 50, was convicted of Robbery in the Third Degree in 1994. Mr. Hernandez was 23 years old at the time of the crime and has been crime free for 26 years. He has been employed by the New York City Department of Correction since 2002, and lives in New York with his parents and three children, all of whom are U.S. citizens. He arrived in the United States as a toddler. A pardon will allow Mr. Hernandez to become a U.S. citizen.
Thomas Cabrera, 52, was convicted of Attempted Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree in 1990. Mr. Cabrera has been crime free for 30 years. He has no other convictions and works to support his family. He has also worked for a nonprofit that provides food to the homeless. He has been married for 30 years, has one son and helps care for his mother. A pardon will allow him to remain in the United States.
Rosemarie Robinson, 54, was convicted of Criminal Possession of Marijuana in the Third Degree in 2000. She has been crime free for 20 years. She is a frontline worker with two jobs – one as a cook and the other as a patient care assistant at an assisted living facility where she has worked throughout the COVID-19 public health crisis. She has lived in the United States for 29 years.
She has five children, three of whom are U.S. citizens, and five grandchildren. Ms. Robinson has been the sole provider of her children, at times working three jobs, and continues to support them. She hopes to open her own restaurant one day. A pardon will allow her to remain in the United States.
Those whose sentences have been commutated include, Maria Ordonez, 26, was convicted of Manslaughter in the First Degree in 2018. She has served six years out of a nine-year sentence. Ms. Ordonez's childhood was filled with abuse and neglect. At age 20, she killed her abusive boyfriend during an incident where he was beating and choking her. While in custody, Ms. Ordonez has participated in vocational training and computer repair and has taken college courses through Marymount Manhattan College.
Her professors have commended her dedication to her studies. She has maintained a consistent work history while incarcerated and has received positive work reports from supervisors. Upon release, she plans to live with her mother and brother.
Theresa Debo, 64, was convicted of Murder in the Second Degree in 2006. She has served 16 years of a 22 years to life sentence. As a child, Ms. Debo was removed from an abusive family environment and placed in foster care.
She cycled in and out of abusive relationships throughout her adult life, including a relationship with victim of the crime for which she has now been incarcerated for more than 16 years and who she maintains she killed in self-defense.
Ms. Debohad no prior criminal history. While incarcerated, Ms. Debo has participated in numerous programs addressing the effects of abuse. Ms. Debo has earned certification as a hospice aid and has participated in several animal caretaker training programs, including Puppies Behind Bars as well as veterinary assistance, pet grooming, and dog obedience training.
Arnold Raimondo, 70, was convicted of Murder in the Second Degree and Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree in 1983. He has served 39 years out of a 50-year to life sentence.
Mr. Raimondo is a Vietnam veteran who enlisted at the age of 17 and served in the Vietnam War. Upon return, he suffered from PTSD that manifested itself in destructive behavior. While incarcerated he has advocated for incarcerated veterans with PTSD, including the expansion of opportunities for veterans to access therapy and treatment.
Mr. Raimondo has co-authored an article about PTSD that was presented at an annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology and has completed two semesters at Marist College. He has lived in the honor block for more than a decade. He also writes poetry and paints murals. Upon release, Mr. Raimondo will live with his sister and work at his brother's carpentry business.
Clifton Williamson, 43, was convicted of Murder in the Second Degree, Attempted Robbery in the Second Degree, Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree, and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Fourth Degree in 1996 and 1997, crimes he committed at 18-years-old.
He has served 25 years of a 25-year to life sentence. While he was convicted of Murder he was not the person who pulled the trigger. Mr. Williamson had a difficult upbringing and was raised in foster homes before being adopted into a home where he was abused.
After reporting that abuse, he was relocated to a shelter before ending up on the streets at age 17. While incarcerated, Mr. Williamson has earned a Journeyman Electrician certificate as well his GED, an Associate's degree, and a Bachelor's degree, graduating from the Bard Prison Initiative in 2019 after majoring in mathematics.
He also founded a GED tutoring program for incarcerated individuals, has been a student in the Cornell Prison Education Project, and has participated in the Bard Prison Initiative's debate program, competing against debate teams from Harvard, Brown, and Vermont University. During his incarceration, Mr. Williamson also co-founded the Phoenix Players Shakespeare Theater Group and has participated in Rehabilitation Through the Arts.
Jacinto Cedeno, 55, was convicted of Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree, Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree, Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Second Degree, and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree in 1996.
He has served 15 years of a 38.5-year to 50-year sentence. While in custody, Mr. Cedeno has held a number of jobs, including Administrative Porter – a trusted position which supports the Executive Team and facility Superintendent. He has also completed drug rehabilitation and anger management programs.
Mr. Cedeno earned his GED while in custody, has lived on the honor block and is an active member of the faith community. Upon release, he will be deported to the Dominican Republic, his home country and will be reunited with his family.
Gus Bethea, 38, was convicted of Robbery in the First Degree in 2003. Mr. Bethea has served 18 years of a 25-year sentence for two street robberies. While in custody, he was valedictorian of his GED class and earned his Associate's degree with honors from SUNY Sullivan Community College through Hudson Link, a program that provides college classes for people who are incarcerated.
He has served as a GED tutor, a chapel clerk, and an inmate leader for Children of Promise, which supports the children of incarcerated individuals. Upon release, he will live with his wife and continue to work towards a degree in Criminal Justice.
Joseph Norman, 60, was convicted of Robbery in the First Degree and Assault in the Second Degree in 2004. He committed the crimes to support a drug addiction. He has served 16 years out of a 20 years to life sentence. Mr. Norman has been sober since his incarceration and has completed substance abuse rehabilitation programming.
While incarcerated, he has earned his GED, participated in anti-violence courses, and has worked full time in food service roles. Mr. Norman has had a clean prison disciplinary record and has lived on the honor block for nearly a decade.