|RELEASE: Hochul grants clemency to seven offenders.|
For Immediate Release: 4/7/2023
GOVERNOR KATHY HOCHUL
GOVERNOR HOCHUL GRANTS CLEMENCY TO SEVEN INDIVIDUALS
Fulfills Commitment to Grant Clemency on a Rolling Basis
Builds on Governor's Efforts to Reform Clemency Process, Including Convening an Advisory Panel of Impartial Experts, Dedicating Additional Staff Resources, and Increasing Communication with Applicants
Governor Kathy Hochul today granted clemency to seven individuals. This action, granting five pardons and two commutations, recognizes individuals demonstrating remorse, exemplifying rehabilitation, and displaying a commitment to improving themselves and their communities. The Governor's action includes a reduction in the sentence of an individual originally convicted under the Rockefeller Drug Laws and who had been serving one of the longest sentences for a non-violent drug-related conviction in the State. Today's action fulfills and underscores the Governor's commitment to granting clemency on an ongoing basis, rather than only once at the end of the year.
These grants follow Governor Hochul's commitment to dedicating additional staff resources to reviewing applications, which helps ensure this ongoing process can occur in a meaningful way and that every application can receive the thorough and timely attention it deserves.
"As Governor of New York, it is my responsibility to exercise the power of clemency to show that change and redemption are possible," Governor Hochul said. "I am proud that we have dedicated the resources necessary to begin to grant clemency on a rolling basis, and I am committed to continuing our efforts to reform the process to best serve New Yorkers."
The Governor's Office has taken a number of steps to improve transparency and communication in the clemency process. The Executive Clemency Bureau has implemented a new policy of sending regular letters to people with clemency applications, informing them of their case status, and providing information about how to submit supplemental information in support of their applications. The Governor's Office also launched an updated online web hub to assist clemency applicants with the application process; this hub includes newly created template clemency application forms for both pardons and commutations to provide prospective applicants with improved guidance about what information to include when they apply.
The Governor also convened a Clemency Advisory Panel comprised of impartial experts to assist in advising the Governor on clemency applications. Following recommendations from the Clemency Advisory Panel, Governor Hochul is commuting the sentences of two individuals, one of whom will be referred to the parole board, and granting pardons to five individuals with strong ties to the United States who are facing immigration consequences as a result of convictions that are at least a decade old.
Georgia Weir-Demercado, 49, has lived a crime free life for 27 years and has earned an Associate's Degree, Bachelor's Degree, and a real estate license. She came to the United States at the age of six and has lived in the United States for more than 40 years. She is married to a United States citizen and has three United States citizen children. Ms. Weir-Demercado was convicted of Attempted Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree in 1995. A pardon will help her pursue naturalization to become a United States citizen.
Asdrubal Gonzalez, 64, has lived a crime free life for 30 years. Mr. Gonzalez entered the United States as a Lawful Permanent Resident in 1971 at the age of 13, more than 50 years ago. He has a wife and two daughters who are all U.S. citizens, has been gainfully employed at an engineering firm for close to three decades, and is an active member of his local church community. He was convicted of Attempted Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree in 1993 and Attempted Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree in 1991. A pardon will help him pursue naturalization to become a United States citizen.
Ashan Grant, 46, has lived a crime free life for 19 years. Mr. Grant, a Canadian citizen and resident, serves as a mentor in his community and operates a small business. He was convicted of Criminal Possession of Marijuana in the Fourth Degree in 2003. A pardon will help Mr. Grant visit his son and other family members living in the United States.
Pawel Sztremer, 46, has lived a crime free life for 23 years. Mr. Sztremer moved to the United States at 14 years old and has lived here for more than 30 years. He currently owns and operates a landscaping and snow removal business. Mr. Sztremer was convicted of Harassment in 1996, Petit Larceny in 1998, Criminal Mischief in the Fourth Degree in 1998, and Attempted Burglary in the Second Degree in 1999. A pardon will help remove the threat of deportation and help him pursue naturalization to become a United States citizen.
Gerson Ramirez, 36, has lived a crime free life for 13 years. Since his most recent conviction, he has earned a college degree and maintained employment at a restaurant for more than 10 years, now serving as the manager. Mr. Ramirez was brought to the United States when he was approximately 18 months old and has lived in the U.S. for nearly his entire life. Mr. Ramirez was convicted of Aggravated Unlicensed Operation of a Motor Vehicle and Aggravated DWI in 2009, and Driving Without Seatbelt, Following Too Close, Driving While Ability Impaired by Alcohol, and Driving Without License in 2004. A pardon will help Mr. Ramirez avert the threat of deportation and remain in the United States with his wife, infant child, and other U.S. citizen family members.
Bryon Russ, 47, was convicted of four counts of Robbery in the First Degree, two counts of Burglary in the First Degree, Burglary in the Second Degree, Robbery in the Third Degree, Assault in the First Degree, Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree, and Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree in 2001. Mr. Russ was sentenced to 40 years in prison, of which he has served close to 23 years. While incarcerated, Mr. Russ has enrolled in and continues to take courses toward his Bachelor's Degree, has worked as a teacher's assistant for other incarcerated individuals seeking their GED, has become an accomplished legal researcher, and earned a paralegal certification after completing an eight-month course in 2022. Mr. Russ has also engaged in a wide range of counseling and volunteer work, including as a facilitator of anti-violence and aggression replacement programs and a participant in Rehabilitation Through the Arts. With his wife, Mr. Russ also started an initiative that raises donations to buy backpacks and school supplies for children in need; now an annual event, this effort has led to more than 200 hundred backpacks and supplies being given out to children in New York State. Upon release, Mr. Russ will live with his wife.
Joaquin Winfield, 58, was convicted of Criminal Possession of A Controlled Substance in the First Degree, two counts of Criminal Possession of A Controlled Substance in the Third Degree, Criminal Sale of A Controlled Substance in the Third Degree, Criminal Use of Drug Paraphernalia in the Second Degree, and Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Fourth Degree in 1997. Mr. Winfield was sentenced to 37 and a half years to life in prison under the Rockefeller Drug Laws in place at the time and has served more than 26 years. His sentence is now among the longest of any in the State stemming from a conviction for drug-related non-violent offenses. Under his original sentence, Mr. Winfield would not see the Board of Parole until 2034. His sentence is being commuted to allow him an earlier opportunity to appear before the Parole Board so that the board can make a determination about whether he is suitable for parole.