Governor Jerry Brown at a podium points at someone in the crowd.
Gov. Jerry Brown. State photo

Gov. Jerry Brown has announced pardons or sentence reductions for some 150 convicted criminals, including two Cambodian refugees facing deportation and a woman who has spent 33 years in prison despite a bungled plea deal that could have freed her decades ago.

The pardons of Rottanak Kong of Davis and Mony Neth of Modesto could be seen as another slap at the Trump administration’s hard-line policies on immigration by Brown.

Both men came to the United States as children when their families fled the Khmer Rouge government that killed millions of its own people. They were recently detained as part of a federal immigration roundup, although a California-based federal judge has temporarily halted the deportation of hundreds of Cambodian refugees, according to ABC7 News.

Kong was sentenced to a year in Stanislaus County jail in 2003 for joyriding. He served seven months. Neth was convicted in 1995, also in Stanislaus County, on weapons and receiving stolen property charges. He also served his sentence.

Brown’s pardons, all of which were publicly announced Saturday, said both men had become law-abiding citizens and paid their debts to society.

Neth, 42, was pardoned on Dec. 6 and unexpectedly released from a detention facility on Friday. He was home with his family, the Sacramento Bee reported.

It’s the second consecutive round of pardons where Brown has intervened on behalf of immigrants deported or facing deportation because of criminal convictions, according to ABC7.

Around Easter, he pardoned three men who served in the U.S. military but were deported to Mexico after completing sentences for various crimes. One, former Marine Marco Chavez, returned to the U.S. on Thursday, 15 years after he was deported following a dog-beating conviction.

These pardons come two months after Brown signed sanctuary legislation limiting state and local cooperation with federal enforcement of immigration laws.

In all, Brown pardoned 132 people and commuted the sentences of 19. That included pardons for about 60 people convicted of making, selling or possessing drugs, including marijuana.

Those winning commutations included Candace Lee Fox.

Fox, 57, took part in a 1984 robbery and killing. She agreed to plead guilty to second-degree murder and testify against accomplices. In return, a Los Angeles County prosecutor said in court that she could be paroled in 7 1/2 years with good behavior. But the law required that she serve at least 10 years.

Fox won a new trial but was convicted in 1992 of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole. A federal appeals panel upheld her sentence last year but two of the judges said the state should consider clemency.

Brown commuted her sentence to 15 years to life, giving her a chance for parole. He noted that Fox has been a model prisoner, and one of her accomplices was paroled years ago.

“Justice is not served by continuing to deny her the opportunity she was promised decades ago – the chance to show that she is worthy of release,” Brown wrote in the commutation order.

Others, who committed their crimes in Los Angeles County, and received full pardons included Peter Engelman, now living in Pennsylvania, who was sentenced May 29, 1996 in L.A. Superior court to 365 days in jail and three years probation for possession and manufacturing of a controlled substance.

Brian David Hartshorn, now of Oklahoma, was sentenced in L.A. Superior Court on March 14, 1994 to 13 months in prison and one year parole for possession of a controlled substance, possession of ephedrine to manufacture methamphetamine and being under the influence of a controlled substance.

And Gregory Sims, now in Oklahoma, who was sentenced July 30, 1990 in L.A. Superior Court to seven years, three months in prison and three years parole for kidnapping with the use of a deadly weapon. Sims used a knife to kidnap a manger of a check cashing store, drive him back to his store and ordered him to open a vault.

Criminals who request pardons must have completed their sentences and shown that they are reformed.

–City News Service

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