By Ed White, Associated Press
DETROIT (AP) – John Zubkoff walked to the road to get his mail and ripped open an envelope on the spot. A decades-long burden suddenly was lifted: Gov. Rick Snyder had erased his conviction for breaking into two storage units when he was 22.
“I had tears in my eyes,” said Zubkoff, 49, of Monroe. “The governor was giving me a second chance. I screwed up when I was little, and I’d been paying for it the rest of my life.”
Snyder granted pardons to 11 men in December, rare decisions that were reported Wednesday to the state Senate. It’s the first batch of pardons during his four years in office, although he has reduced sentences to allow gravely ill inmates to leave prison.
Besides Zubkoff’s case, the others who were pardoned include men convicted of shoplifting, drunken driving, breaking and entering and other mostly small crimes. The most serious appears to be an armed robbery. Clifford Church’s conviction for breaking and entering was in 1955.
“Most of them were people who made mistakes early in their lives and have been good citizens for decades,” Snyder spokesman Dave Murray said Thursday. “The earlier mistake they made was holding them back from a job, a passport.”
The pardons were recommended to Snyder by the state parole board, which interviews the applicants. The process can take a long time: Zubkoff got his letter from the governor in mid-January, 16 months after he spoke to the board.
“There’s no set schedule for them,” Murray said. “He was working on other things. They’re not necessarily a high priority.”
In 1987, Zubkoff was 22 when he admitted breaking into unoccupied storage units. He completed probation, but the criminal record has stuck to him for years. He said he was rejected for jobs and has been stopped while trying to enter Canada to fish in bass tournaments where the jackpots run $50,000 or more.
“I’m not a threat to anybody,” said Zubkoff, who owns a landscaping company.
Joe Hastings, 43, of Dickson, Tennessee, pumped his fist when he got a call before Christmas informing him about his pardon. His application had been turned down three times before he finally got a hearing in January 2014.
“It was an unbelievable sense of elation,” said Hastings, who at age 19 was caught throwing rocks at parked cars in the Detroit area.
“This has been a thorn in my side ever since it happened and I realized what I had done,” he said. “I couldn’t be a coach for my kid’s Little League team. I couldn’t be a leader in the Cub Scouts. I couldn’t get life insurance to protect my family. … A felony is a felony. There’s no discernment between breaking windows or slicing somebody’s throat.”
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