Governor Hochul Commits to Dedicating Additional Resources to Be Able to Grant Clemency on a Rolling Basis Throughout the Year, Including an Advisory Panel of Impartial Experts
Governor Hochul Commits to Increased Transparency and Communication with Applicants About Application Status
Governor Kathy Hochul today granted clemency to 10 individuals who showed remorse and exemplified rehabilitation. Individuals selected for clemency have shown a commitment to bettering their communities and themselves, and were carefully selected after a thorough review process. The Governor also announced several steps to reform the Executive clemency program, including announcing that she has directed the Counsel to the Governor to select an advisory panel to assist in advising the Governor on clemency applications. The panel will consist of impartial experts from the fields of law enforcement, public defense, the judiciary, and clergy, as well as formerly incarcerated people.
"As Governor, I have a unique and solemn responsibility to carefully use the power of clemency to address individuals in the criminal justice system who have made mistakes and have taken extraordinary steps to rehabilitate themselves," Governor Hochul said. "I am granting clemency to these deserving individuals who have exemplified rehabilitation, and I am committed to increased transparency and accountability in this process going forward. No one should be defined by their worst mistake, and these individuals have worked tirelessly to atone for theirs."
Governor Hochul also announced an overhaul of the clemency process to increase transparency and improve the review process. First, the Governor committed to dedicating additional staff resources to reviewing applications in order to be able to grant clemency on an ongoing basis throughout the year, rather than granting clemency only once. Additional resources will help ensure this ongoing process can occur in a meaningful way, and that every application can receive the thorough and timely attention it deserves.
To improve transparency in the clemency application and review process, the Governor also announced that whenever she acts on clemency, her office will release numbers detailing how many clemency applications have been delivered year-to-date, and how many have been granted or denied. Twice a year, applicants whose cases remain open and under review will receive letters confirming their case status and providing information about how the applicant may submit supplemental information in support of their application.
The Governor’s office will also work with the Executive Clemency Bureau within the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision to provide improved guidance to clemency applicants about what information they should include in their applications and how they should make the Governor’s office aware of changes in their circumstances that may impact their case.
Ana Sanchez Ventura, 64, has lived a crime free life for 19 years, and is an active member of her local community, including a local senior center where she has organized trips and helped sew and donate hundreds of masks during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ms. Sanchez has three children and several grandchildren, and has lived in the United States for more than 45 years. She was convicted of Attempted Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree in 2002. A pardon will help her remain here with her family and community.
Juan Vinas, 56, has lived a crime free life for 30 years, and has been gainfully employed at a garage management company in New York City for close to 25 years. He has lived in the United States for over 40 years, is married to a U.S. citizen, and is the father of five U.S. citizen children, one of whom is a U.S. Army veteran. He was convicted of two counts of Criminal Facilitation in the Second Degree in 1991. A pardon will help Mr. Vinas obtain a green card so that he can remain in the United States with his family.
Faustino Reyes, 60, has been crime free for nine years, has lived in the United States for more than 35 years, and has been married to a U.S. citizen for more than three decades. Mr. Reyes was convicted of Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree in 2012. A pardon will help ensure Mr. Reyes can remain in the United States with his wife and safely travel outside the country to visit family abroad without fear of being denied re-entry.
Sandra Williams, 65, has lived a crime free life for 25 years and has worked as a home health aide since 1999. She has lived in the United States for more than 50 years and has two children and several grandchildren. She was convicted of Prostitution, Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Fourth Degree, Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Seventh Degree, Attempted Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Fifth Degree, and Loitering Unlawful Use of a Controlled Substance between 1974 and 1996. A pardon will help ensure she can remain in the United States with her family.
Francisco Vargas, 53, has lived a crime free life for 18 years. Mr. Vargas has maintained employment as a parking attendant and is an active member of his local church. He has lived in the United States for more than 35 years. He was convicted of Attempted Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree and Attempted Offering a False Instrument to File in the Second Degree. A pardon will help Mr. Vargas seek U.S. citizenship and remain in the United States with his other U.S. citizen family members, including his children, partner, mother, and siblings.
Orlando Fernandez Taveras, 46, has lived crime free for 12 years. Mr. Fernandez Taveras came to the United States when he was approximately 16 months old and lived here for more than 30 years before being deported in 2014 due to his convictions. He is married to a U.S. citizen and has a U.S. citizen child, both of whom left the country with him to keep the family together following his deportation. He was convicted of Petit Larceny, Attempted Petit Larceny, Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Fifth Degree, Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Seventh Degree, Criminal Trespass in the Third Degree, Attempted Resisting Arrest, Trespass, and Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle in the Third Degree between 1998 and 2008. A pardon will help Mr. Fernandez Taveras return to the United States with his family, where they would rejoin a large network of U.S. citizen and Lawful Permanent Resident family members.
Hanley Gomez, 41, has been crime free for seven years. Mr. Gomez has lived in the United States since he was eight years old, and currently works for a New York City-based meal delivery company. He also volunteers at a local food pantry. Mr. Gomez is also the primary caretaker and provider for his 10-year-old child. He was convicted of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Seventh Degree, Resisting Arrest, DWAI, and Attempted Criminal Mischief between 1998 and 2011. A pardon will help ensure Mr. Gomez can remain in the United States with his son and extended family.
Juan Suazo, 54, has lived a crime free life for 34 years. Mr. Suazo is an active member of his local church and works as a carpenter with a roofing and waterproofing company. He is married to a U.S. citizen, has two U.S. citizen children, and has lived in the United States since 1984. He was convicted of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Fifth Degree in 1986. A pardon will help Mr. Suazo obtain a green card and remain in the United States with his family.
Edilberta Reyes Canales, 56, has lived a crime free life for 12 years and has worked as a home health aide for several years, including throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a survivor of domestic abuse. Ms. Reyes has lived in the United States since fleeing conflict in her home country in 1988. She is the primary caretaker and provider for her son, who is a U.S. citizen. Ms. Reyes was convicted of Criminal Contempt in the Second Degree, Resisting Arrest, Assault in the Third Degree, Endangering the Welfare of a Child, Falsely Reporting an Incident to Law Enforcement in the Third Degree, and Petit Larceny between 2007 and 2009, and Attempted Petit Larceny in 1993. Her convictions between 2007 and 2009 occurred during a period in her life when she was actively trying to escape an abusive relationship. A pardon will help Ms. Reyes avoid deportation, for which she is facing an upcoming hearing, and remain in the United States with her son.
Roger Cole, 55, was originally sentenced to one hundred and twenty-five years to life in prison, having been put on trial during the Rockefeller Drug Law era during which extremely lengthy prison sentences were handed down for drug-related convictions. In 1989 and 1992, he was convicted of five counts of Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree and one count each of Criminal Sale of a Firearm in the Second Degree and Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Third Degree. His sentence was subsequently reduced on appeal to eighty-five to one hundred years, of which Mr. Cole has now served more than thirty years. If he were sentenced today, he likely would not have faced such a lengthy sentence. While incarcerated, Mr. Cole has earned his GED and an Associate Degree, and has completed numerous vocational training and certification programs, including legal research and law library management. He also earned a certificate for completing a three-year business course while incarcerated. Upon his release, Mr. Cole will be reunited with his mother and other family members in his home country of Jamaica who will provide housing and help him find employment.