New York, NY – Over two dozen convicted criminals – including 22 immigrants and four murderers – were granted clemency by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday.
“It’s a good way to start the year,” City University of New York School of Law professor Steve Zeidman told The New York Times. “These are wonderful people. There are more people who will be productive on the outside.”
Cuomo granted clemency to 29 convicts on Monday, an overwhelming number of whom were immigrants facing possible deportation, the New York Post reported.
Immigrants who are legal residents generally get deported after being convicted of serious crimes. The governor's action prevents their deportation.
“While President Trump shuts down the federal government over his obsession with keeping immigrants out, New York stands strong in our support for immigrant communities,” Cuomo said in a statement.
“These actions will help keep immigrant families together and take a critical step toward a more just, more fair and more compassionate New York,” he added.
During the summer of 2018, Cuomo also pardoned eight other immigrants who were facing deportation, the New York Times reported.
Some of the individuals he conditionally pardoned have already been arrested for new offenses, according to the paper.
“Every recipient is in good standing, having given back to their communities and families in a variety of ways, and having demonstrated a substantial period of crime-free, good citizenship,” Cuomo said of those he opted to pardon on Monday.
Zeidman assisted three of the felons with their applications for commutations, including 49-year-old convicted killer Roy Bolus, The New York Times reported.
Bolus and his co-defendant, 49-year-old Alphonso Riley-James, were convicted of murder, robbery, criminal possession of weapons, and burglary for their involvement in a drug deal that left two men dead, the Times Union reported.
Bolus and Riley-James were 18 years old when they traveled to Albany with four other men and broke into an apartment, The Syracuse Post-Standard reported at the time.
The crew then forced 20-year-old William Patterson and 21-year-old George Jones Mosley onto the floor, and another member of the group executed Patterson and Mosley with a bullet to the head.
The crew was also accused of attempting to execute a woman inside the apartment, but the gun jammed, sparing her life.
Police later located they hysterical woman on the roof of the complex, and took her to a psychiatric center.
Another man was wounded by the attackers as he fled from the apartment.
Bolus was sentenced to 75 years to life, and Riley-James was sentenced to 50 years to life. Both of them are decades away from being eligible for parole, the Times Union reported.
While in prison, Bolus completed a bachelor’s degree, two master’s degrees, and is working on his PhD.
“You meet him and say, ‘Why is this man in prison after 30 years for a crime he committed when he was 18?’” Zeidman told The New York Times.
Riley-James also completed a bachelor’s degree while sitting in prison, and has received a paralegal certificate as well.
Taking classes in prison doesn't bring back their victims.
“As extraordinary as they are, there are countless others like them,” Zeidman told the Times Union. “They hope that their release is the start of a trend, that it opens the spigot, so to speak. It’s a wonderful start, but it’s just a start.”
Cuomo also commuted the sentence of 42-year-old convicted murderer Dennis Woodbine, who fired a gun at a group of thieves in 1998 and fatally struck a bystander, the New York Post reported.
Woodbine was 19 years old at the time, and has since received a bachelor’s degree during his prison stay.
Cuomo commuted the sentence of 38-year-old convict Michael Crawford, who was two decades into his 22-year sentence for the 1999 shooting death of a man who stole concert tickets from him, the New York Post reported.
Commutations were also doled out to three other inmates convicted of weapons possession or robbery.
"For a society to be just, then justice must be tempered with mercy,” Department of Corrections and Community Supervision Acting Commissioner Anthony Annucci said in the governor’s press release.
“With these grants of clemency, Governor Cuomo has again demonstrated why New York is a beacon for hope and enlightenment,” Annucci added.
New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado concurred, and declared that Cuomo’s “mercy” would help to “build a stronger and hopeful future for everyone.”
“I am proud that Governor Cuomo is making New York State a place where we have the chance to earn mercy,” Rosado said.
Cuomo’s statement did not make any reference to the potential impact that the convicted felons’ pardons and commutations might have on their victims or the victims’ family members.