Gov. Evers grants eighteen pardons, largest group thus far

Gov. Tony Evers

MADISON, Wis. — Gov. Tony Evers granted 18 pardons this week, which is the largest group of pardons thus far.

The Governor’s Pardon Advisory Board listened virtually from applicants on June 23, a release said. Applicants who were recommended for pardon were given to Evers for final consideration.

“A pardon won’t fix the challenges facing our criminal justice system, but it can have a tremendous impact on a person’s life,” Evers said. “Each of these people earned a pardon by serving their sentence and making positive contributions to society.”

The pardons announced Thursday are the most Evers has made at one time since reviving the issuing of pardons last year following an eight-year hiatus under former Gov. Scott Walker. In February, Evers pardoned 17 people. Including Thursday’s 18, Evers has now pardoned 47 people.

The Wisconsin Constitution allows the governor to pardon individuals convicted of a crime. A pardon is an official act of forgiveness that will restore some of the rights that are lost when someone is convicted of a felony.

Pardons don’t erase or seal a conviction, but they do restore a variety of rights, including being able to own a gun and serve on a jury.

The release said individuals can apply for a pardon if they completed five years of their sentence and have not committed new crimes.

The individuals that were pardoned were:

  • James Hernon, 59, who burglarized a home 20 years ago in exchange for proceeds and drugs. He works for the Milwaukee Rescue Mission, an organization that helped him recover from drug addiction.
  • Steven Johnson, 58, was 23 when he caused a car accident that killed his best friend. The victim’s mother supported a pardon. He was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor and asked for the pardon before dying.
  • Taranda Westmoreland, 45, made unauthorized charges on a credit card at 26 years old. Westmoreland has a master’s degree and works to help others in need in Milwaukee.
  • Barry Plotnick, 65, was 21 years old and struggling with addiction when he and his friend broke into a drug store and stole valium. After his sentence, he became a small business owner and lives in Georgia.
  • Loretta Childs, 38, was 22 years old when she wrote bad checks to obtain items for resale. She took responsibility and has maintained employment while raising her children in Milwaukee.
  • Matthew Raasch, 41, was dealing with drug addiction when he cashed fraudulent checks. He works with Waukesha County inmates and drug alcohol treatment courts as a mentor to those struggling with addiction.
  • Elandis Peete, in his 40s, sold cocaine to an undercover police officer at 18 years old. Since then he opened his own trucking business and mentors and hires formerly incarcerated individuals.
  • Shelesia Parham, 51, was 23 years old when she forged her mother’s name on multiple withdrawal slips for her mother’s account. Her mother fully supports a pardon. Parham is an owner of multiple newspapers in Racine. She also hosted a weekly gospel hour on local radio.
  • Kerry Brunner, 59, was in his early 20s when he was convicted of several offenses connected to drug addiction. His is married and has been a small business owner. He is currently living in Missouri working as a custodian in his local school district.
  • Keith Butler, 40, was 23 and homeless when he was caught selling drugs to undercover police officers. He is now a father who helps in the community. He previously was assistant coach with the Green Bay Packer Pee Wee League Neighborhood Youth Sports Organization.
  • Markeese Walker, 40, was 22 when he was convicted of fleeing an officer. He is now an active community member and volunteer.
  • Andrew Ophoven was arrested by three plain-clothed detectives for selling marijuana 20 years ago. He has gone to school for culinary arts and hospitality management and hopes to own his own restaurant.
  • Michael Andersen, 40, sold marijuana and shoplifted 20 years ago. He lives in West Allis and has associate degrees in marketing and business, along with a daughter.
  • Yusef Moore, 49, was convicted of several offenses relating to drug addiction in his early 30s. He obtained a master’s degree from Loyola University of Chicago. He helps others with addiction by becoming a substance abuse residential counselor and works with homeless individuals.
  • Terry Howel-Dixon, 65, failed to report an increase in income 30 years, which resulted in an over-grant of public assistance and food stamps. She is a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother and has maintained steady employment, along with being involved with her faith community.
  • LaFondra Thomas was 19 when she committed a series of check forgeries. She has worked for AT&T for 21 years after obtaining her HSED. She lives in Texas.
  • Sonny Valeriano, 34, was 20 years old when he sold marijuana for quick cash after struggling with a death in the family. He has pursued multiple degrees to become a massage therapist.
  • Richard Baker, 39, was convicted several times a young man for  charges including bail jumping, obstructing an officer and escape. He obtained his HSED and works as a hunting and fishing guide in Minnesota.