Governor Jared Polis is wrapping up his first year in office by extending mercy to eight people with criminal convictions, including three still serving sentences for serious crimes.
Polis commuted the sentences of three men currently in prison, making them all eligible for parole as soon as March 2020. He also issued pardons to wipe out the criminal records of three other men and two women. With all of them, the governor highlighted the ways they have improved their lives and contributed to society since their convictions.
The three men whose sentences the governor commuted are:
- Abron Arrington. Arrington has already served 26 years of his life sentence for a murder he was convicted of when he was 22 years old. Arrington didn't pull the trigger in the crime, but he received a harsher sentence than the other people involved, all of whom are now free. In his commutation letter, Polis noted that in his time in prison, Arrington has devoted himself to physics and engineering, and even patented a flood-mitigation system.
- Erik Jensen. Jensen was convicted of a murder he committed when he was 17 years old. At the time he was sentenced to life without parole, but in 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled such sentenced for juveniles are unconstitutional. A Colorado state Supreme Court ruling led to him being automatically re-sentenced to life with a possibility of parole, something Polis has now made possible. Jensen says he walked in on his friend Nathan Ybanez murdering his mother, Julie Ybanez, and helped cover it up. Last year, then governor John Hickenlooper commuted Ybanez's sentence, making him eligible for parole this month. Polis notes in his letter than Jensen has founded a faith-based counseling program for his fellow inmates at Limon Correctional Facility.
- William Hoover, Jr. In his letter granting Hoover clemency, Governor Polis notes that he was actually a victim of the man's crimes. Hoover has served 15 years of a 100 year sentence for securities fraud, racketeering, and theft. Polis writes, "I understand how painful your breach of trust was for so many" but notes Hoover's "extreme remorse" for his victims, his advanced age, and his leadership in founding Prisoners Against Drunk Driving, to try to prevent former inmates from driving impaired.
The five people pardoned by the governor are:
- Ingrid Encalada LaTorre. LaTorre, a Peruvian national and mother of three children, has been living illegally in the United States since she was 17. She was convicted in 2010 of identity theft, for using false documents to work. That criminal record brought her to the attention of immigration officials, and she has been living in sanctuary in a Boulder church for the past two years to avoid deportation. “I know my life is going to change now,” LaTorre told supporters and the media at a press conference Monday. Last year, LaTorre petitioned then-governor Hickenlooper for clemency, but he denied the pardon, arguing it would set a bad precedent. It is unclear whether erasing her criminal record will effect the deportation proceedings against her.
- John Furniss. Polis pardoned Furniss for a 2001 conviction for conspiracy to distribute marijuana in Moffat County. According to the pardon letter, Furniss lost his eyesight and sense of smell in a suicide attempt when he was 16 years old, and turned to marijuana to deal with the pain. Polis notes Furniss is now an artist and aspiring professional woodworker, and says granting the pardon will hopefully make it easier for him to grow his business and serve the community.
- Brandon Burke. Burke pled guilty to possession of drugs in Mesa County almost 20 years ago, but has gone on to live a normal life, buying a home, marrying, and starting a family. In his letter, Polis says he hopes the pardon, by restoring Burke's right to own guns, will allow him to go hunting with his wife and son.
- Eric Edelstein. Edelstein was convicted of drug possession in 2002 in Routt County. He's now the owner of a construction company in Steamboat Springs and a volunteer ski patroller. By wiping out Edelstein's criminal record, Polis says he hopes he'll have new opportunities to participate in the community.
- Jamie Matthews. Matthews pled guilty in La Plata County more than ten years ago to attempted drug dealing, and driving while impaired. Polis notes that since her convictions she's earned a B.A. from Fort Lewis College and become a certified accountant and frequent community volunteer. "Your friends and colleagues describe your perseverance, determination, and courage," Polis writes, "I hope this pardon will allow you to pursue your dreams and continue to make good choices. By doing so, you will improve not only your life, but the lives of your family and community members."
You want to know what is really going on these days, especially in Colorado. We can help you keep up. The Lookout is a free, daily email newsletter with news and happenings from all over Colorado. Sign up here and we will see you in the morning!