Gov. Jerry Brown pardoned 79 convicted felons who had served their sentences and committed no other crimes for at least a decade, the governor's office announced Monday.
Pardons can be granted to those who have demonstrated exemplary behavior following their conviction. Most of Brown's pardons went to people who had been convicted of drug crimes. Others had convictions for theft, robbery, driving under the influence and other such offenses.
Brown, a Democrat, singled out Thomas George Pfleger of Newport Beach for his philanthropic work. Pfleger, 61, had been convicted in 1970 for possession of narcotics with the intent to sell and convicted of second-degree robbery six years later. In 1983, he was sentenced again, this time for using or being under the influence of a controlled substance.
"For many years now, Mr. Pfleger has been a generous and active supporter of numerous charitable and philanthropic causes, including in the areas of child welfare, substance abuse recovery, wildlife preservation and medical research," the governor wrote in his pardon.
Pfleger was recommended for a pardon by the Orange County Superior Court, the Board of Parole Hearings and by a majority of the justices of the California Supreme Court.
According to tax filings, Pfleger is president of the George T. Pfleger Foundation, which gave more than $1 million in 2010 to various charities. They include Big Brothers/Big Sisters in Tustin, Cri-Help, a drug abuse treatment center in North Hollywood, and the Pfleger Institute of Environmental Research, a marine research center in Oceanside.
"He's certainly grateful to Gov. Brown and the judicial system for allowing him to straighten out these earlier mistakes in his life," said Pfleger's attorney, Allan Stokke. "He has tried to accomplish that by his focus on charitable activities and mostly interesting to him is his work with those who have substance abuse issues. Those are his ways of trying to make it right."
Stokke declined to explain how Pfleger acquired his wealth.
A pardon does not erase a criminal record, but it can restore some rights, such as owning firearms unless the conviction involved the use of a dangerous weapon. It also allows the recipients to serve on jury trials.
Among the other pardons announced on Christmas eve were ones for Frank E. Morino, now 79, for a robbery he committed in San Diego in 1954, and for Leonard Wilson-Banks II, now 76, for drug possession and robbery in the 1960s. Wilson-Banks has served as a chaplain at an Arkansas state prison for the past 11 years.
While most of the offenses were drug-related crimes, there was one financial crime. Jerry Smith, now a 73-year-old resident of Washington state, was pardoned for offering a false statement to buy or sell security back in 1987.