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Brown sees stories of redemption in his 91 Christmas Eve pardons

Lights from the Capitol Christmas tree glow in Sacramento.

Lights from the Capitol Christmas tree glow in Sacramento.

(Rich Pedroncelli / AP)

Unlike his immediate predecessors, Gov. Jerry Brown has routinely acted to grant pardons to hundreds of men and women he believes have turned their lives around.

Though his Christmas Eve pardons last week included actor Robert Downey Jr., there were dozens more who received a holiday gift of being eased from the burden of a felony committed, in some cases, decades earlier.

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They include Aaron Malloy, 38, who now lives in Los Angeles County and is battling Stage 4 lung cancer. When a representative of the governor’s office called to tell him the pardon had been finalized, Malloy said he was in disbelief.

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“It was the kind of happiness that makes you want to cry,” Malloy told The Times on Thursday. “It was just a big sigh of relief.”

“That is a great feeling, knowing that that chapter is closed.”

Malloy was 16 when he was arrested for robbery, and he entered state prison on his 19th birthday. He served five years and seven months in prison and two years on parole.

“It immediately ... woke me up to the reality that I needed to really be focused and have goals,” Malloy said. “The only way I could see for redeeming myself was ... through education.”

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After his release, Malloy enrolled in classes at a community college in Sacramento, and after receiving bachelor’s and graduate degrees, he co-founded an electronics waste company.

The crimes listed in Thursday’s pardon proclamations run the gamut; one man was pardoned for stealing $20 from a convenience store, another for a manslaughter conviction stemming from a traffic collision.

Thomas Danieli hit a car while attempting to pass another vehicle, and both the passenger in his car and the other driver were killed. Danieli was sentenced in 1986 and served three years’ probation. He went on to work as a probation officer for more than 25 years.

Amos Hathway

Amos Hathway

(Courtesy Amos Hathway)
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Many were pardoned for drug crimes, including Amos Hathway, who was convicted in 1990 of possession of marijuana for sale. For Hathway, now a pastor in Oregon, the news of his pardon capped an eight-year quest.

Now 45, he was convicted of possession of an eighth of an ounce of marijuana with intent to sell soon after his 18th birthday.

His criminal past didn’t stop him from working and traveling the world as a pastor, but when his children started signing up for Little League baseball — and he had to acknowledge on the application that he was a convicted felon — Hathway started looking into clearing his record.

It was a lengthy ordeal; Hathway first applied to then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, then had to restart the process when Brown became governor. Hathway said he looked forward to enjoying the full rights of his citizenship, such as serving on a jury.

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“I’m quite grateful. Now, in essence, I have my rights restored,” Hathway said.

Hathway also wryly noted that recreational marijuana is now legal in his current state. He said the evolving cultural attitude about marijuana makes such pardons more “palatable.”

Now, Hathway said he is relishing the “tremendous Christmas present” he got from the governor, whom he’ll be thanking with a late Christmas card.

On Facebook, he wrote, “Just received a call from Governor Jerry Brown’s office! I have been granted a pardon and am both now free in Christ but also have a clean record. It has been an 8 year process, thank you Governor Brown.”

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The process of gubernatorial pardons can take months, from a judge awarding the former felon a certificate of rehabilitation to subsequent detailed paperwork and the final yes-or-no decision by the governor.

Evan Westrup, a spokesman for Brown, said the governor was weighing the final decisions as late as Thursday morning, based solely on his own instincts about each individual’s attempt at rehabilitation.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re an actor or a pastor or whether you’re politically connected,” Westrup said.

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john.myers@latimes.com; melanie.mason@latimes.com; christine.mai-duc@latimes.com

Twitter: @johnmyers; @melmason; @cmaiduc

Follow @johnmyers on Twitter and sign up for our daily Essential Politics newsletter

For more, go to latimes.com/politics

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