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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Ex-Florida State player pardoned by Scott, Cabinet

20

September

Harry Davis is 56, and his years as a basketball star at Florida State University are far behind him. But the long-time Cleveland resident returned to Tallahassee on Thursday and left a proud man after Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet pardoned him for a single drug-related transgression involving cocaine that happened 25 years ago.

He said he could not wait to break the news to his 85-year-old mother back in Ohio. "I'm going to be able to tell her I got exonerated, and I'm going to feel better," Davis said. "I came here at some expense, but I thought it was worth it. If you endure, and persevere, good things are going to happen." 

The four officials, meeting as the Board of Clemency, took the rare step of rejecting an unfavorable recommendation from the Parole Commission, which noted that Davis' drug use ended in 2005, a fact he confirmed in testimony at a clemency hearing.

Davis' chances of securing an official pardon -- the highest and rarest form of clemency -- seemed shaky at first. "How can you make me feel comfortable that seven years is long enough?" Scott asked Davis. He replied that his current employer conducts random drug tests, an idea Scott strongly supports for government workers.

Davis is taking courses to get his massage therapist's license, and he said he won't get his license without first being fingerprinted and undergoing a criminal background check. He said he can't work with kids at the Boys' Clubs and YMCA in Cleveland unless his record is cleared. The governor and Cabinet reinstated his civil rights in 2006, he said.

Attorney General Pam Bondi gave Davis a strong endorsement. "We did our own research on you, and you do a lot of good in your community," Bondi said. "Would a full pardon allow you to work with children and coach?"

Davis was convicted of attempted cocaine trafficking in Palm Beach County in 1987 and spent a year in a county stockade. He called it a "grave and serious mistake," and has not re-offended since. He works with inner-city youth in Cleveland, drives a shuttle bus for a hotel located near Cleveland's airport, and works in public relations for the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers, where he played one season after college. 

Davis, a 6-foot-7 forward, played basketball for the Seminoles from 1974 to 1978, followed by one season as a backup player with the Cavs. He was inducted into the FSU Sports Hall of Fame in 1998. He recalled playing for a solid FSU team under Coach Hugh Durham that then played its home games at Tully Gym, a tiny on-campus facility, years before the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center was built.   

[Last modified: Thursday, September 20, 2012 5:04pm]

    

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