Days before Easter, Newsom announces dozens of pardons and commutations

SACRAMENTO —  Days before Easter, California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday moved to commute sentences for 18 people, issue pardons for 37 others and submit a pardon application for an award-winning San Quentin podcaster, Earlonne Woods.

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(Courtesy of Ear Hustle)

The application is the first step in a lengthier process toward a pardon that requires final approval from the state Supreme Court, which is needed in cases involving those with more than one felony conviction.

Woods was sentenced to 31 years to life for his role in a 1997 armed robbery under the state’s tough-on-crime “three strikes” law, following two prior convictions when he was a teenager. Woods launched the “Ear Hustle” podcast from San Quentin State Prison in 2017. Morgan Freeman’s Revelations Entertainment is reportedly partnering with “Ear Hustle” for an upcoming docuseries, according to Deadline.

State law does not allow Newsom to pardon or commute the sentences of someone with more than one felony conviction without the high court’s approval. Instead, Newsom submitted Woods’ application to the Board of Parole Hearings, which would first have to recommend the pardon to the court.

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Former Gov. Jerry Brown commuted Woods’ sentence in 2018, making him eligible for parole. Brown noted that correctional staff and volunteers had praised Woods’ behavior and leadership among the other inmates. After his release, Woods interviewed Brown for the podcast at the governor’s mansion in Sacramento.

“I believe Earlonne will continue to educate, enlighten and enrich the lives of his peers at San Quentin and the many, many people who listen faithfully to ‘Ear Hustle,’” Brown wrote in 2018.

Newsom also commuted the sentence of Rahsaan “New York” Thomas, a former San Quentin inmate and “Ear Hustle” co-host, in January 2022. The parole board granted his parole in August and Thomas was released the following February.

His departure from San Quentin followed an investigation by The Times into dozens of people who remained in prison despite receiving mercy from the governor.

Newsom also granted a posthumous pardon to William Burwell, who helped organize protests as a student at San Fernando Valley State College, now Cal State Northridge, during the Civil Rights Movement. Burwell was arrested in 1969 and convicted of misdemeanor trespass and failure to disperse during a racial justice protest on campus in 1969, according to the governor’s office.

The students eventually negotiated for the creation of what would later become the Department of Africana Studies, which Burwell co-founded and later chaired. Burwell died in August 2022.

“Dr. Burwell’s decades of work and contributions advancing equity and justice benefited innumerable students, faculty, the CSUN community, and many others in California and beyond,” Newsom wrote in his pardon. “His visionary leadership will continue to serve as a legacy for future generations.”

Anyone convicted of a crime in California can apply for a pardon or commutation from the governor.

A pardon restores some rights to former felons, such as the ability to serve on a jury or to seek a professional license. In limited cases, pardons can restore gun rights to those convicted of crimes that did not involve a dangerous weapon or relieve a sex offender from being required to register.

Click here to read the full article in LA Times


  1. Curious as to how many pardoned will be repeat offenders. According to the individual in the State of Oregon who was in charge of their States prison system that had approx 40,000 employees had in the past few years enacted an early release program to put the criminals back on the streets. Not only did she not have a clue as to how many of the 40,000 taxpayer funded employees actually showed up for work but she had no clue as to how many of the released criminals had repeat offenses after their early release program. Typical government bureaucracy?

  2. Neil Mahony says

    What do you expect from the Bryll Creme Kid?

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