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Ehrlich announces his first four pardons

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. announced yesterday the first pardons of his administration and said that he has implemented new procedures to make sure that all requests for clemency get a proper review.

The pardons went to four people who had been convicted of relatively minor crimes decades ago. None served time in prison; instead, they received suspended sentences and/or probation.

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Mark K. Vernarelli, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, which oversees the Maryland Parole Commission, said that Ehrlich plans to review as many as 20 pardon requests a month as he works through a backlog of more than 250 applications.

"We're happy because it refocuses attention on this," Vernarelli said. "If people have been living crime-free lives for years, it is only fair that their cases be re-examined if they ask us to re-examine them."

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To qualify for a pardon for a misdemeanor, an individual must have been crime-free for at least five years, Vernarelli said.

Those convicted of a nonviolent felony generally have to have been crime-free for 10 years, while those convicted of a violent felony or certain drug-law violations are required to have been crime-free for at least 20 years, he said.

The grant of a pardon is an important power conferred upon governors. A pardon can restore a person's voting rights, the right to own firearms and, in some cases, remove a potential barrier to employment.

Shareese N. DeLeaver, an Ehrlich spokeswoman, said that 308 pardons were granted during Parris N. Glendening's eight years in office.

In addition to granting the four pardons announced yesterday, Ehrlich rejected four other applications, DeLeaver said.

The four whose pardons were announced yesterday were:

Stephen Ross Hannon, convicted in 1974 in Howard County of possession with intent to distribute marijuana.

Barry L. Glass, convicted in 1982 in Wicomico County of assault and battery.

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John Arnold Writt, convicted in 1979 in Anne Arundel County of theft valued at under $300 and receiving stolen goods.

Carolyn Crowder, convicted in 1992 in Baltimore County of theft valued at under $300.

Sun researcher Jean Packard contributed to this story.


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