Lucky lawbreakers gain pardons from Gov. Scott and Cabinet
Gov. Rick Scott and Cabinet members granted a half-dozen full pardons Wednesday to people who in some cases broke the law decades ago and whose petitions for mercy reached the state's top decision-makers in the holiday season. The four officials meet four times a year as the Board of Clemency to decide cases in which long ago lawbreakers seek mercy from the state.
William Bartlett Jr., who had a string of run-ins with the law as a youth in St. Petersburg, was one of the lucky ones. Decades after what Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam called a "reign of terror" that included burglary, grand theft, DUI, discharging a firearm in public and obstructing a police officer, Bartlett's criminal record was wiped clean.
Bartlett, a building contractor and member of a local sewer board in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, won a unanimous vote of mercy after owning up to his past behavior. "I absolutely take responsibility," Bartlett said. "As a reckless adolescent, I made horrible decisions." A drunk-driving accident that cost him the use of his left hand is "a daily reminder of what I've done," he testified.
"I'm not the same person," said Bartlett, with his wife, attorney Lauren Bartlett, at his side in the Capitol's Cabinet room.
A 78-year-old Coconut Grove man, George Huskins, lost his right to drive 23 years ago after his fourth drunk-driving conviction (under Florida law, a driver is permanently banned from the roads after a fourth conviction). He said he long ago quit drinking and has been trying to get his rights back for six years. With his son at his side, he swore that he hasn't taken a drink in 23 years, and Scott and the Cabinet pardoned him on the condition that he pass a driving safety test first.
"This is a lot of convictions for DUI," Scott told Huskins.
Not so lucky was Evelyn Bromell of South Carolina, who said she teaches Sunday school and cares for special needs children, but something in her case file -- which is secret under state law -- didn't sit well with Scott and he denied her petition. "I beg you to reconsider," Bromell said before quietly walking away, her head bowed.
At the start of the hearing, Scott had warned everyone that clemency is not automatic and no one should expect favorable treatment. "Whether it should be or it shouldn't be, this is how the law was created," Scott told the crowd.