Thursday, June 21, 2018
Politics

Pardon comes, finally, after six years

As a young man living in St. Petersburg three decades ago, Larry Wood made a couple of bad mistakes.

He has spent the past six years trying to clear his name. Last week, it took less than five minutes for Gov. Rick Scott and three other senior state officials to forgive him.

While working construction in Florida in 1984, Wood was caught driving after his license in Michigan had been suspended for not paying $150 in overdue tickets. He was 23 at the time.

A year later, Wood and his then-wife got into a verbal fight that escalated into pushing and shoving at her parents' mobile home where they were living. It ended with him being arrested for battery.

Both cases were misdemeanors. But Wood had a criminal record that has stalked him every day of his life until last Thursday, when he was in Tallahassee to plead for mercy and ask for a pardon. Wood stood before Scott and Cabinet members, meeting as the Board of Executive Clemency (Attorney General Pam Bondi, CFO Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam).

"I take responsibility for these two crimes and express my apology to my ex-wife Ginger, to each of you and to the state of Florida," Wood said.

His new wife, Kristi, stood at his right, and his lawyer, Reginald Garcia, stood at his left.

The board unanimously granted Wood a full pardon, even though the staff of the Florida Parole Commission recommended his request be denied.

The state's investigation of Wood turned up a 1990 DUI in Michigan. There was no accident and no one was hurt. Wood also got a citation in Michigan for driving a snowmobile without a registration tag.

"I commend you for turning your life around," Bondi told him.

Wood has been a stonemason for 30 years, so he knows how to be patient and work toward the desired result.

In any clemency case, the governor must be on the prevailing side. Scott, the decisionmaker, took the measure of Wood, listened to his testimony and approved a pardon.

Wood wanted it mainly so he can get a permit to own a gun so he can go hunting with his brothers and sons in Michigan, where he has lived for years. Under federal law, a person with a domestic violence conviction cannot own a gun.

A grateful Wood had only one complaint afterward: "I think it took too long."

Wood's case is instructive because of his persistence in the face of the glacier-like pace with which Florida handles clemency cases.

The chronically short-staffed Parole Commission is straining under a backlog of 31,000 cases. About two-thirds of them are ex-felons seeking to have their civil rights restored so they can vote; the rest are in other categories, like Wood's.

The Legislature in the recently ended session gave the Parole Commission an additional $350,000 so the agency can hire more people to reduce the backlog.

To celebrate, Larry and Kristi Wood planned to take a kayak trip down the Wakulla River, south of Tallahassee.

Wood was also wise to spend the money to fly to Florida and plead his case in person. Scott often denies clemency petitions by people who skip their hearings.

"Do these applicants realize how much better it is to be here?" Scott asked.

Comments
Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

NEW PORT RICHEY — A seasoned historic hotel renovator and operator is going to take a crack at getting New Port Richey’s city-owned Hacienda Hotel back into action. New Port Richey City Council members, acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, u...
Published: 06/20/18
Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis stepped into a growing controversy over President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, criticizing the separation of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexican border and saying that "populism" and "creating psychosis" are not t...
Published: 06/20/18
Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Well, that didn’t last long.U.S. Army veteran Michael Sean McCoy filed to run as the Republican candidate in the State House, District 57 race just hours after incumbent State Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia, announced he was stepping down.McCoy, who live...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

At this moment, she is Tampa Bay’s most influential export. A smart, accomplished and powerful attorney making life-altering decisions on an international stage.But what of tomorrow? And the day after?When the story of President Donald Trump’s border...
Published: 06/19/18
‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

SEATTLE — The call came at mealtime — an anonymous threat demanding $5,000 or her son’s life. So Blanca Orantes-Lopez, her 8-year-old boy and his father packed up and left the Pacific surfing town of Puerto La Libertad in El Salvador and headed for t...
Published: 06/19/18
Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

WASHINGTON - As he prepared to visit Capitol Hill, President Donald Trump on Tuesday continued to insist that Congress produce comprehensive immigration legislation, while anxious Republicans explored a narrower fix to the administration policy of se...
Published: 06/19/18
Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Calls are mounting on Capitol Hill for the Trump administration to end the separation of families at the southern border ahead of a visit from President Donald Trump to discuss legislation.Trump’s meeting late Tuesday afternoon with...
Published: 06/19/18
Another detention center for immigrant children planned for Houston

Another detention center for immigrant children planned for Houston

Another facility intended for detaining undocumented children is reportedly in the works for Houston as the number of children separated from their parents at the border continues to swell.Southwest Key Programs, the same contractor that operates the...
Published: 06/19/18
Muralist working with huge St. Pete ‘canvas’ to create neighborhood eye-grabber

Muralist working with huge St. Pete ‘canvas’ to create neighborhood eye-grabber

ST. PETERSBURG — They appear to rise out of nowhere — two enormous, reclaimed-water tanks with an artist’s white clouds scudding across a blue background.A closer view reveals silhouettes of a lone coyote howling at the sky, mangrove islands, oak, cy...
Published: 06/19/18
FBI agent removed from Russia probe for anti-Trump texts says he’s willing to testify before Congress

FBI agent removed from Russia probe for anti-Trump texts says he’s willing to testify before Congress

The FBI agent who was removed from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election for sending anti-Trump texts intends to testify before the House Judiciary Committee and any other congressional committee that asks, his attorney sai...
Published: 06/17/18