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.

(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.

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CA’s Democratic Members of Congress Plead for Obama to Pardon “Dreamers”

As reported by the Los Angeles Times:

Led by members of the California delegation, dozens of House Democrats are again pleading with President Obama to pardon hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children to whom he granted temporary deportation deferrals.

Last month, several members of Congress asked Obama to use his pardon authority to forgive the past and future civil immigration offenses of the nearly 750,000 people granted deportation deferrals under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.

The lawmakers say that even though the so-called Dreamers would be left in legal limbo without work permits or visas, they could more easily apply for legal status from within the U.S. without immigration offenses on their records.

A White House official immediately batted down the idea, saying a pardon wouldn’t give them legal status. …

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