SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – A trio of U.S. military veterans deported to Mexico over a decade ago after serving prison sentences received Easter clemency as California Gov. Jerry Brown granted them pardons.
In what has become an Easter and Christmas tradition for the Democratic governor since returning to office in 2011, Brown issued a total of 72 pardons and seven commutations on Saturday. Brown, 79, pardoned mostly drug-related offenses and nonviolent crimes.
He has issued over 900 pardons since 2011.
Brown pardoned three veterans, including former Marine Erasmo Apodaca Mendizabal, who served 10 months in prison after being convicted of burglary. Apodaca was deported in 1997.
“He has shown that since his release from custody, he has lived and honest and upright life, exhibited good moral character and conducted himself as a law-abiding citizen,” Brown said in a pardon message. “Indeed, Mr. Apodaca served in the United State Marines where he received a national defense service medal, among other honors.”
Also pardoned were former Marine Marco Chavez and Army veteran Hector Barajas. Chavez was convicted of animal cruelty, while Barajas served 13 months in prison for shooting a gun from a vehicle.
According to Brown, Barajas received Army humanitarian and conduct medals and established a support program for fellow deported veterans in Tijuana.
The gubernatorial pardons don’t guarantee re-entry into the United States, but the FBI is notified when pardons are issued. Their records will reflect that their prior convictions have been forgiven.
Brown’s pardons allow recipients to apply to own firearms, work as probation or parole officers and serve on juries. Only individuals who have lived crime-free for over a decade can qualify for a pardon.
Seven inmates also saw commutations on Saturday, including a Riverside County man given life without parole in 1981 for murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
“The man I am now is unrecognizable to the boy I was,” Daniel Wiltse said in his commutation application.
Wiltse was 18 when he “succumbed to his mother’s pressure” and orchestrated the murder of his stepfather. Wiltse drove the man who killed his stepfather to and from the scene of the crime.
He’s been in prison for 37 years.
“In light of Mr. Wiltse’s age at the time of his crime, his transformation in prison and his commitment to rehabilitation, I believe he deserves a chance to make his case before the Board of Parole Hearing so they can determine whether he is prepared to be released from prison,” Brown said.
The inmates receiving commutations will remain incarcerated but have the chance to convince the parole board they should be released.