Former Assembly Minority Leader Pat Nolan received a pardon from President Donald Trump Wednesday for his 1994 guilty plea to a racketeering charge in connection with the state capitol sting operation known as Shrimpscam.
Nolan, a Republican who represented the Glendale area from 1978-94, served 25 months in a federal prison in the 1990s. Nolan said he accepted the plea bargain because he feared a longer sentence if convicted by a jury that would keep him away from his wife and three children.
“Mr. Nolan’s experiences with prosecutors and in prison changed his life,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement. “Upon his release, he became a tireless advocate for criminal justice reform and victims’ rights.
“In fact, it was because of this work that the president learned of Mr. Nolan’s case. Since his release, he has helped to secure the passage of several major criminal justice reforms, including the Prison Rape Elimination Act, the Second Chance Act, the Fair Sentencing Act, and the First Step Act. He is also the author of `When Prisoners Return,’ a guide for churches and community groups working to help former prisoners return to their communities.
“While incarcerated, Mr. Nolan helped organize religious-study groups and is uniformly described as a man of principle and integrity. Family and friends have long sought clemency for Mr. Nolan, alongside notable advocates like former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and author Arnold Steinberg. In light of these facts, Mr. Nolan is entirely deserving of this grant of executive clemency.”
Nolan won Republican support for the First Step Act of 2018 in his role as director of the American Conservative Union Foundation’s Center for Criminal Justice Reform, which was formed in 2014. He was in the Oval Office in December for the bill’s signing.
During the ceremony, Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to Trump, introduced Nolan, calling him “my friend.”
“There’s somebody here overlooking all of this, and that’s Chuck Colson,” Nolan said, referring to the late special counsel to President Richard M. Nixon who served seven months in federal prison for Watergate-related crimes and recruited Nolan to become president of the Prison Fellowship Ministries’ Justice Fellowship, which works to reform the criminal justice system.
“He was a lonely voice among conservatives, saying we had to reform the criminal justice system … so I’m sure he’s smiling down from heaven.”