ALBANY, N.Y. — With one week left until Governor Andrew Cuomo's resignation takes effect, his office says he has granted clemency to 10 people. They are people who, according to his office, "have demonstrated substantial evidence of rehabilitation and a commitment to their communities."
"One of the foundational promises of New York State is that of equal justice, and equal compassion, for all under the law," Governor Cuomo said. "Today I'm proud to help fulfill the government's unique responsibility to harness the power of redemption, encourage those who have made mistakes to engage in meaningful rehabilitation, and empower everyone to work toward a better future for themselves and their families. These ten clemencies are another step on the long march towards a more fair, more just, more equitable, and more empathetic New York. I thank all the volunteer attorneys representing clemency applicants for their dedication and service to the cause of justice and rehabilitation."
The Governor commuted the sentences of five individuals and fully pardoned five others:
Nehru Gumbs, 36, was convicted of first-degree Manslaughter, and second-degree Criminal Possession of a Weapon and Assault in 2005, crimes he committed at 18 years old. He has served 17-and-a-half years out of a 25-year sentence. While in custody, Mr. Gumbs has served as the Youth Counselor at Sing Sing's Youth Assistance Program, earned his Associates Degree in Science (cum laude) from Mercy College, and is enrolled in plumbing & heating vocational programs and a 4-year college program with Mercy College. Upon release, Mr. Gumbs will live with his family, and pursue employment in the plumbing and heating field.
Jon-Adrian Velasquez, 45, was convicted of second-degree Murder and Attempted Murder, three counts of first-degree Robbery, and first-degree Attempted Robbery, in 1999. He has served 23-and-a-half years out of a 25-year-to-life sentence. After entering the prison system in 1998, he enrolled in a college program through Hudson Link and earned an Associate's Degree in 2012 and a Bachelor's Degree in 2014, graduating with honors from both programs, and was recognized at graduation with an award for outstanding academic achievement and community service. He continues to work with Hudson Link, helping run their college program at Sing Sing, and since his graduation has worked as a teaching fellow for a Columbia University professor. In 2013, Mr. Velazquez helped establish "Voices From Within," an educational initiative combating gun violence through the voices of incarcerated people. The program has been used by the NYC Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice, the Department of Probation, and NYPD as an educational tool. Mr. Velazquez also founded Forgotten Voices, an initiative to bridge the policymaking gap between incarcerated people, DOCCS administrators, and the public. The program has resulted in policy proposals, fundraisers for community youth groups, the establishment of a gun buyback program in Brooklyn, a youth mentorship program, and more. Upon release, Mr. Velasquez will live with his mother, and work to expand programs like "Voices From Within" that he has developed while incarcerated.
George Martinez, 60, was convicted of second-degree Burglary and Attempted Burglary, and fourth-degree Criminal Possession of Stolen Property and Attempted Criminal Possession of a Weapon in 1992, 1995, and 2007. He has served 15 years out of a 17-and-a-half-year-to-life sentence. While in custody, Mr. Martinez has worked towards earning his GED, and has become a well-regarded cook, provided voluntary cooking services for various events, including cooking meals for 200 guests at a ceremony for the New York Theological Seminary. Upon release, Mr. Martinez will live with his son, and continue his work in food services.
Dontie Mitchell, 41, was convicted of first-degree Robbery, Criminal Use of a Firearm, and Attempt to Knowingly Make/Possess Dangerous Contraband in Prison, two counts of first-degree Attempted Robbery, two counts of second-degree Criminal Possession of a Weapon, and fourth-degree Grand Larceny in 1997 and 2003, including crimes he committed at 17 years old and while homeless. He has served 24-and-a-half years out of a 27-to-54-year sentence. While incarcerated, Mr. Mitchell has focused on mentoring other young men who grew up without role models. He has completed coursework for his Associate's Degree through Bennington College, served as a GED tutor, and mentored young men in the Mentoring and Nurturing (MAN) Program. He has served as Youth Chairman of Sing Sing Chapter of NAACP, and as Education Chairman of the Auburn Chapter of the National Trust for the Development of African American Men. Upon release, Mr. Mitchell will live with his mother and stepfather.
Richard "Lee" Chalk, 63, was convicted of two counts of second-degree Murder, two counts of first-degree Robbery, two counts of first-degree Burglary, and second-degree Criminal Possession of a Weapon in 1988, related to an incident in which he was the driver, not the gunman. He has served 33 years out of a 50-years-to-life sentence. While in custody, Mr. Chalk has earned training certificates in various fields, including legal research, food service, sighted guide training, and the Fatherhood & Family Law Program. He has also volunteered with Project Care and the American Cancer Society. Upon release, Mr. Chalk plans to live with family, and plans to obtain a commercial drivers license and resume work as a truck driver.
James Pamphile, 44, was convicted of first-degree Bail Jumping and first-degree Attempted Assault in 2013, and third-degree Assault in 2011. After a childhood in Haiti marred by physical and mental abuse at the hands of family and community members due to his sexual orientation, Mr. Pamphile, an accomplished dancer, has remained crime-free for eight years. A pardon will help allow Mr. Pamphile to remain in the United States.
Ivelisse Castillo, 60, was convicted of third-degree Attempted Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in 2001. A regular volunteer at a community garden, a local rehabilitation and nursing home, and her church, Ms. Castillo has remained crime-free for 19 years and is an integral part of her community. A pardon will help Ms. Castillo remain in the United States with her extended family, including her son, mother, sister, and grandchildren.
Jorge Quinones, 47, was convicted of third-degree Attempted Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in 1996. Since his conviction, Mr. Quinones has earned a Master's Certificate from Boston University's computer engineering program, and launched a successful career working with various companies in the cybersecurity industry, including building communication helmets for the U.S. military. Crime-free for 25 years, a pardon will help Mr. Quinones remain in the United States with his family, including his wife.
Miriam Ordonez, 40, was convicted of third-degree Attempted Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in 1999, when she was 17 years old and working at a coffee shop run by a drug dealer who sought out and took advantage of undocumented children, and Disorderly Conduct in 2016. A survivor of domestic abuse, a pardon will help Ms. Ordonez to remain in the United States with her children, including her newborn baby and two children with unique needs.
Catherine Valdez, 35, was convicted of second-degree Attempted Robbery in 2002 when she was 16 years old. Since her conviction, Ms. Valdez has worked as a professional caregiver, earning a Personal Care Assistant certificate. She is currently working toward earning a Home Health Aid certification and hopes to become a nurse. A single mother and sole provider to her four children, a pardon will help Ms. Valdez remain in the United States with her family.