Governor Cuomo Grants Clemency to 29 Individuals

31 December 2018

"At a time when the federal government is shut down over a demand for a wall that is designed to exclude and marginalize those who seek a better life in this country, how fitting it is that New York State is tearing down walls, and recognizing the value of individuals who have demonstrated that their past is not their future. The Osborne Association is grateful to Governor Cuomo for opening doors for those behind the walls, and holding the door open for those who want only to stay and continue to contribute to our community." – Liz Gaynes

Commutations Granted to Individuals Demonstrating Remorse, Rehabilitation and Commitment to Their Communities

For information, contact Press.Office@exec.ny.gov

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today granted clemency to 29 individuals who have demonstrated substantial evidence of rehabilitation and a commitment to community crime reduction.

"While President Trump shuts down the federal government over his obsession with keeping immigrants out, New York stands strong in our support for immigrant communities," Governor Cuomo said. "These actions will help keep immigrant families together and take a critical step toward a more just, more fair and more compassionate New York."

Pardons
Governor Cuomo today issued pardons to the following individuals in recognition of their rehabilitative efforts and to remove the barriers that their criminal records present to their immigration status. Some are facing deportation, while others wish to be able to participate in their communities as citizens of the country they call home. In each case, a pardon will make immigration-related relief possible, if not automatic. Every recipient is in good standing, having given back to their communities and families in a variety of ways, and having demonstrated a substantial period of crime-free, good citizenship. This is the fifth time Governor Cuomo has used his pardon authority to protect individuals facing potential deportation, including most recently in August when he issued a pardon to an individual on the morning of his deportation hearing and in July when he issued pardons to seven other individuals.

Siriaco Concepcion Santana, 67, was convicted of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Seventh Degree in 1997 and Criminal Possession of a Narcotic in the Fourth Degree in 1998 in Manhattan. He has maintained sobriety and remained crime-free in the 20 years since his convictions, and become devoutly religious. Mr. Santana is from the Dominican Republic and is currently facing removal proceedings. A pardon will help him continue to provide for his family and receive necessary medical care.

Gil Guillen, 52, was convicted of Attempted Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree in 1987 in Bronx. He started his own business in South Carolina and lives there with his wife and daughter, ever since immigrating to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic. He has remained crime-free for 31 years. Mr. Guillen also has volunteered much of his time to rebuilding South Carolina homes wrecked in recent hurricanes. He will use a pardon to pursue citizenship.

Laith Altaee, 47, was convicted of Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree in 1997 in Monroe County. Mr. Altaee is from Iraq and lives in Rochester with his wife and two children. A pardon will help him avoid the risk of deportation due to his conviction, which he committed 21 years ago and has not been arrested since.

Socrates Brito, 42, was convicted of Criminal Sale of Marjuana in the Fourth Degree in 1996 when he was 20 years old in Manhattan. He came to the United States from the Dominican Republic at the age of 5 as a Legal Permanent Resident. Mr. Brito is an active volunteer in his community, and has remained crime free for 22 years. A pardon will help him avoid the risk of deportation due to his conviction.

John Ghedini, 67, was convicted of Criminal Possession of Marijuana in the Second Degree in 1982 in Manhattan. Mr. Ghedini was born in Mexico to Italian parents and came to the United States at the age of 9. He recently retired from working nearly thirty years for the same New York company. A pardon will allow him to file for an adjusted immigration status, and stay in the country that he has lived in for nearly sixty years. He has lived a crime-free life for the past 36 years.

Boaz Bag-Bag, 53, was convicted of Trademark Counterfeiting in the Second Degree in Queens County, for which he was required to pay a fine and not sentenced to any incarceration. He has not committed any crimes in the past 10 years since his counterfeiting conviction. Mr. Bag-Bag did not have any prior convictions. He was born in Israel and is the CEO of a company employing over 6,000 drivers in New York City. A pardon would help defend him against the risk of removal proceedings.

Dimas Acosta Ramirez, 64, was convicted of Robbery in the Third Degree in 1976, Petit Larceny in 1992 and Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree in 1997, in Manhattan, Westchester, and the Bronx, respectively. Mr. Ramirez has been crime-free and sober for 21 years. He was born in Colombia and actively faces deportation, despite living here for 46 years. Mr. Ramirez is a volunteer pastor who provides child care for his grandchildren, and is the father of four children, three of whom served in the U.S. Armed Forces. He has maintained a crime-free lifestyle for 21 years.

Ricardo Bernabeu, 59, was convicted of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree in 1986 in Monroe County. An immigrant from Cuba, he now works as a mechanic in Florida, where he and his wife are raising their children. He has remained crime free for 32 years. A pardon will help defend him against the risk of removal proceedings.

Wojciech Lesniak, 36, was convicted of Resisting Arrest and Attempted Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle in the Third Degree in Queens County in 2006. Mr. Lesniak has completed residential treatment for alcohol and drug use and currently works as the house manager for a sober house and a driver for a residential addiction treatment program. He has maintained a crime-free and sober lifestyle for the 12 years since his conviction. A pardon will allow him to reapply for his green card and pursue naturalization.

Olive Ferguson, 75, was convicted of Attempted Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree in the Bronx in 1991. She has been crime-free ever since. Ms. Ferguson was born in Jamaica and is an active member of her church. She has remained crime-free for 27 years. A pardon will minimize her risk of deportation.

Anthony Khan, 66, was convicted of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the 7th Degree in 1980 when he accompanied an acquaintance to sell a controlled substance and was arrested as part of a sting operation in the Bronx. He was born in Trinidad and came to the United States in 1971. He is an active church goer and a husband and father, who has worked with the Taxi and Limousine Commission for 35 years. He has remained crime-free for 37 years.

Rohan Hylton, 47, was convicted of Attempted Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree in 1992 and Criminal Possession of Marijuana in the Fifth Degree in 2001 and 2003 all in Queens County. Mr. Hylton is from Jamaica and came to the United States over 30 years ago with his family to escape political persecution. As a father and dedicated family man, he now lives and works in Queens. A pardon will allow him to apply for discretionary relief from his deportation order. He has not been convicted of any misdemeanors or felonies for 12 years.

Ramon Vivieca, 40, was convicted of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third and Seventh Degrees in 1999 in Manhattan. He was born in the Dominican Republic and came to the United States at the age of 8. Mr. Vivieca is the father of three U.S. citizen children and is the sole financial provider for his family. He works as an art handler in New York City, and has remained crime-free for 20 years.

Manuel Vidal Antigua, 38, was convicted of Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Fourth Degree in Queens in 2007 for selling a small amount of a controlled substance to make money for his mother's medical expenses. He was born in the Dominican Republic and currently faces an order of removal. Mr. Antigua is the father of two American children, helps run his community softball team, and takes care of his elderly mother. Mr. Vidal Antigua has not committed a crime for 12 years.

Doris Yeara Hutchinson, 74, was convicted of Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree in the Bronx in 2002. Ms. Hutchinson is a retired grandmother who was born in the Dominican Republic to a U.S. citizen father but who has not been able to receive citizenship herself. She has remained crime-free for 11 years.

Kerrone Kay-Marie Parks, 33, was convicted of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Seventh Degree in Queens in 2013. She was born in Jamaica, is a domestic violence survivor, a mother of three children on the honor roll, and currently volunteers full-time at a nursing home. She has remained crime-free for five years.

Rachel Lewis, 50, was convicted of several low level drug crimes and Criminal Mischief in the 1990s in the Bronx. She was born in the United Kingdom and came to the United States at the age of 2. Her mother and children are all U.S. citizens. Ms. Lewis works as a drug treatment counselor for formerly incarcerated people in New York City. A pardon will enable her to renew her green card and continue her employment. Ms. Lewis has remained crime-free for 13 years.

Jeremy Grant, 58, was convicted of Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree in 2005 when an individual in a group he was a member of sold drugs to an undercover cop and the entire group was convicted in Manhattan. He immigrated from Jamaica and has been in prolonged removal proceedings since 2006. He has remained crime-free for 13 years. A pardon would remove the barriers to apply for a green card renewal and prevent him from being deported and losing his access to necessary medical treatment.

Jorge Luna Torres, 44, was convicted of Attempted Arson in the Third Degree in 1999, for setting an acquaintance's car on fire as an act of mischief. He has not committed a crime in nearly 20 years. Mr. Torres entered the United States as a Legal Permanent Resident at the age of 9. He received his B.A. in Math and has tutored students in this subject area. A pardon will help Mr. Torres fight his order of removal from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Trevor Elliot, 67, was convicted of Criminal Sale and Attempted Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree and Criminal Sale of Marijuana in the Fourth Degree in the early nineties in Westchester. He was born in Jamaica and has worked at a nonprofit that provides social services for youth and as an elder care provider. A pardon would allow Mr. Elliot to apply for citizenship. He has maintained a crime-free lifestyle for 10 years.

Marvin Hernandez, 34, was convicted of Attempted Arson in the Third Degree for setting fire to a box of trash in 2006 in Westchester when he was 21 years old. There were no injuries, and Mr. Hernandez has remained crime-free for the 12 years since. He came to the United States at age 3 from El Salvador to join his parents. A pardon will help him avoid deportation to El Salvador, where he has no family and fears gang violence.

Reginald Castel, 45, was convicted of Assault in the First Degree in 1999, almost 20 years ago in Rochester. Mr. Castel was born in Haiti and came to the United States at the age of 8. He is married with four children and was deported without notice in September 2017. A pardon will allow Mr. Castel to apply for reentry to the United States and reunite with his family. He has remained crime free for 19 years.

These pardons are the latest actions Governor Cuomo has taken to support the immigrant community and defend immigrants against federal attacks. In 2011, he signed a wide-reaching Executive Order to ensure language access across state agencies, suspended the State's participation in a federal program that required local law enforcement to help identify deportable individuals, signed legislation holding entities that defraud immigrants accountable, and established the Office for New Americans. He launched NaturalizeNY, the first public-private partnership of its kind to encourage and assist eligible immigrants in New York State with becoming U.S. citizens. 

In 2017, Governor Cuomo launched the Liberty Defense Project, a State-led, public-private legal defense program to ensure that all immigrants, regardless of status, have access to high quality legal counsel. In partnership with leading nonprofit legal service providers, the project has significantly expanded the availability of immigration attorneys statewide. The FY 2019 Budget includes an additional $10 million investment to ensure the Liberty Defense Project continues to sustain and grow the network of legal service providers providing these critical services in defense of our immigrant communities.

This summer, Governor Cuomo announced a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration's policy of forced family separation on the U.S. southern border. To protect immigrants from overly aggressive deportation tactics increasingly utilized by ICE, the Governor issued executive orders to prohibit ICE arrests in state facilities without a warrant, prohibit state agencies and officers from inquiring about individual's immigration status unless required by law or necessary to determine eligibility for a benefit or service or disclosing information to federal immigration authorities for the purpose of civil enforcement.

Elizabeth Gaynes, Osborne Association, President and CEO said, "At a time when the federal government is shut down over a demand for a wall that is designed to exclude and marginalize those who seek a better life in this country, how fitting it is that New York State is tearing down walls, and recognizing the value of individuals who have demonstrated that their past is not their future. The Osborne Association is grateful to Governor Cuomo for opening doors for those behind the walls, and holding the door open for those who want only to stay and continue to contribute to our community."  

Alisa Wellek, Executive Director of the Immigrant Defense Project, said, "In pardoning immigrant New Yorkers who face deportation despite years of contributing to our communities, Governor Cuomo has used a powerful tool to restore dignity to people for whom punishment will otherwise never end, simply because they were not born here. We look forward to continuing to work with the Governor's office and our Immigrant Clemency Project to provide immigrant New Yorkers with a fighting chance to remain with their families in the face of Trump's hateful agenda." 

Commutations
Governor Cuomo today commuted the sentences of seven individuals who have demonstrated substantial evidence of rehabilitation. They will return to their communities and help serve as essential credible messengers to reduce crime throughout New York State. 

Andre Jenkins, 52, has served 15 years of a 22 to life sentence for Robbery in the First Degree. In 2005, Mr. Jenkins was convicted of robbing three people in Suffolk County. No gun was recovered in the alleged gunpoint robbery. He expresses strong remorse for the criminal lifestyle he was engaged in. Mr. Jenkins has completed substance abuse treatment and received both a B.A. and M.A while in prison. He co-founded Voices from Within, a group that works to discourage young people from engaging in gun violence, spearheaded a gun buy back drive, was president of Sing Sing's NAACP, and raised funds for Hurricane Sandy relief.

Brian Masterson, 42, has served 12 years of an 18-year sentence for six counts of Robbery in the First Degree. Mr. Masterson committed a string of robberies in Buffalo in 2006, during which no one was injured. He expresses strong remorse for these crimes. Mr. Masterson earned his Associate's Degree from Genesee Community College and has facilitated both an incarcerated veteran's support group and a substance abuse treatment group. Mr. Masterson has also been an assistant teacher for adult basic education and an active participant in the Youth Assistance Program. He would like to work as a substance abuse counselor when he completes these requirements, but in the meantime has an offer of job assistance from a painters' union in Erie County.

Eugene Bush, 52, has served 22 years of a 25 to life sentence for Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree. He confessed to possession of an inoperable pistol in Brooklyn in 1998. Mr. Bush expresses strong remorse for the criminal lifestyle he was engaged in. Mr. Bush works as a library clerk, lives on the honor block and is currently working toward his B.A. Upon release, Mr. Bush will accept one of a number of job offers, including counselling positions, and return to his wife who suffers from a chronic medical condition. 

Alphonse Riley-James, 49, has served 30 years of a 50 to life sentence for the 1988 convictions of Murder in the Second Degree, Robbery in the First Degree, Burglary in the First Degree and Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree. At the age of 18, he accompanied a group to Albany as part of a drug deal that ended in the death of two men. While part of the group, Mr. Riley-James was not accused of actually causing the deaths. Mr. Riley-James expresses strong remorse for the loss of life. Mr. Riley-James is a leader within his facility, where he teaches basic legal research, leads a chess club and runs a financial literacy newsletter with his wife. He received his B.A., works as a law library clerk and volunteers in a children's center and as a volunteer adult literacy tutor. Mr. Riley-James has his paralegal certification and plans to work as a paralegal upon release.

Roy Bolus, 49, has served 30 years of a 75 to life sentence for Murder in the Second Degree, Robbery in the First Degree, Burglary in the First Degree and Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree, convictions he received in 1988. At the age of 18, he accompanied a group to Albany as part of a drug deal that ended in the death of two men. While part of the group, Mr. Bolus was not accused of actually causing the deaths. He expresses strong remorse for the loss of life. Mr. Bolus received a B.A. and two Master's degrees and is currently pursuing a PhD in educational leadership. He has taught HIV prevention courses, leads various charity drives, and served as the president of Yale Law School's PACT-Reentry program. Upon release, he will complete his PhD and apply to teaching positions.

Michael Crawford, 38, has served 20 years of a 22 to life sentence for Murder in the Second Degree, Robbery in the First Degree, Attempted Robbery in the First Degree and Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Third Degree. Mr. Crawford was convicted of these charges at the age of 17 for shooting an individual who stole concert tickets from him in Buffalo in 1999, who was involved in the same drug crowd. He expresses strong remorse for the loss of life. Mr. Crawford is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse by a pastor, and Mr. Crawford's testimony was essential to sentencing his abuser to 70 years. Since incarceration, he has received his GED, B.A. from Bard and M.A. from New York Theological Seminary. Mr. Crawford is active in volunteer work, including knitting clothing for children and organizing United Way donations. Mr. Crawford has a job offer from St. John Baptist Church in Buffalo which he will accept upon release.

Dennis Woodbine, 42, has served almost 22 years of a 25 to life sentence for Murder in the Second Degree and Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree for an incident in Brooklyn in 1998 when he was 19 years old. While chasing a group of young men who had stolen his jewelry, Mr. Woodbine fired a gun, striking an innocent bystander. He expresses strong remorse for the loss of life. Mr. Woodbine earned a Bachelor's degree from Mercy College through Hudson Link. He is also a Youth Assistance Mentor and is active in the organization Rehabilitation Through the Arts, performing in and directing plays in his correctional facility. Mr. Woodbine was featured in a PBS documentary, Dramatic Escape, about RTA success stories. Upon release, he will work at Exodus Transitional Community, a leading re-entry organization, as a youth mentor, and live with his wife and step-children, who think of him as their father. 

New York State Secretary of State and Co-Chair of Governor Cuomo's Re-entry and Reintegration Council Rossana Rosado said, "The goal of the criminal justice system is to repair wrongs, not to inflict life-long punishment. Governors are granted pardon powers because compassionate mercy is embedded in the American ideal of a strong societal fabric. This concept lets us build a stronger and hopeful future for everyone. I am proud that Governor Cuomo is making New York State a place where we have the chance to earn mercy."  

Anthony Annucci, Acting Commissioner, NYS Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, said, "For a society to be just, then justice must be tempered with mercy. With these grants of clemency, Governor Cuomo has again demonstrated why New York is a beacon for hope and enlightenment."   

Anthony Thompson, New York University School of Law, Professor, Co-Chair Re-Entry Council said, "This important act of leadership by the Governor should be commended for recognizing that people can change. This is an important step in ending our reliance on mass incarceration and realizing the importance of rehabilitation and reformation."

Sean Pica, Executive Director of Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison, said, "We commend and thank Governor Cuomo for believing in the ripple effects that formerly incarcerated people can have on their families, communities, and society at large. It takes real courage and faith to exercise this executive power. We look forward to witnessing these men and women, who have worked so hard with such dedication to personal improvement, demonstrate how much good they will do given this second chance." 

Greg Berman, Director of the Center for Court Innovation said, "The Center for Court Innovation applauds Governor Cuomo for offering clemency to those who have demonstrated their commitment not just to changing their own lives but also to transforming the lives of others.   Evidence, including our programs' experience, shows that credible messengers — people with a history of criminal involvement who have gotten their lives back on track — can use their knowledge of the streets to halt retaliatory violence before it happens.  Formerly-incarcerated individuals like those offered clemency by Governor Cuomo can play a valuable role in spreading a message of peace and non-violent conflict resolution within crime-plagued communities."   

Kathrina Szymborski, of Patterson Belknap Webb and Tyler, said, "We are thrilled that two of our clients, Messrs. Crawford and Woodbine, have been granted executive clemency this year. Given their demonstrated rehabilitative efforts, their extraordinary educational accomplishments, and their commitments to bettering their communities, we firmly believe that they will thrive following their release from prison. We commend the Governor for his continued focus on moving New York toward a fairer and more compassionate criminal justice system as reflected in these sentence commutations."

Steven Zeidman, Clinical Professor of Law at CUNY School of Law, said, "I thank the Governor for recognizing and valuing the remarkable strides that our clients Alphonse Riley-James, Roy Bolus and Andre Jenkins have made, the exceptional people that they have become, and all that they have to offer to all of us beyond the prison walls."