Hopefully, you all got what you wanted from Santa this year. But even if you didn’t, you can take some comfort that there are 21 people in New York State who certainly did. Their presents weren’t dropped off by a jolly old elf coming down their chimney, however. Governor Andrew Cuomo decided to play Santa on Christmas eve and handed out nearly two dozen pardons and sentence commutations. He put the announcement on the official New York Governor’s website, along with explanations of each person’s crimes and what impact these gifts would have on them.
Let’s start with the pardons. There were fourteen of them in total, and they all had something in common. I’ll post the first couple of them here and we’ll see if you can figure out the common thread.
Kaydian McKenzie, 43, was convicted of Criminal Possession of Marijuana in the Second Degree and Criminal Trespass in the Third Degree in 2001 and 2002. Ms. McKenzie has been crime free for 18 years, is a registered nurse, and has worked at a nursing home in New York State throughout the COVID-19 public health crisis. In addition to her role as a frontline worker, Ms. McKenzie is the mother of three U.S. citizen and is active in her local church, where she has volunteered with a program that delivers food to older New Yorkers who are living alone. A pardon will help Ms. McKenzie remain in the United States with her family.
Rosario Pena, 61, was convicted of Petit Larceny and Attempted Robbery in the Second Degree in 1981 and 1986. Ms. Pena was forced to commit these crimes by sex traffickers to whom she fell victim. After a childhood marred by abuse, homelessness and years of victimization by traffickers, Ms. Pena has now been crime free for 34 years. A pardon will allow Ms. Pena to remain in the United States, where she has lived for more than 50 years.
The next dozen follow the same format. Touching stories, each and every one. All of them appear to have relatively minor crimes on their record, with many including drug possession in minor amounts, theft or robbery. Those aren’t exactly the sorts of things that land someone in enough trouble to need a pardon, however. But if you look at the final sentence of each of the fourteen paragraphs you will find the same phrase. “Help (or “allow“) him/her to remain in the United States…”
In other words, these are all illegal aliens who have been ordered for deportation. By wiping out their record of other crimes beyond illegal immigration, Cuomo is striving to increase their chances of avoiding being returned to their native countries despite the fact that they have all knowingly been living here illegally, some for more than half a century.
There were seven other names on Santa Cuomo’s nice (as opposed to naughty) list, and they all received commutations for their sentences. Here are the first couple of examples.
Maria Ordonez, 26, was convicted of Manslaughter in the First Degree in 2018. She has served six years out of a nine-year sentence. Ms. Ordonez’s childhood was filled with abuse and neglect. At age 20, she killed her abusive boyfriend during an incident where he was beating and choking her. While in custody, Ms. Ordonez has participated in vocational training and computer repair and has taken college courses through Marymount Manhattan College. Her professors have commended her dedication to her studies. She has maintained a consistent work history while incarcerated and has received positive work reports from supervisors. Upon release, she plans to live with her mother and brother.
Theresa Debo, 64, was convicted of Murder in the Second Degree in 2006. She has served 16 years of a 22 years to life sentence. As a child, Ms. Debo was removed from an abusive family environment and placed in foster care. She cycled in and out of abusive relationships throughout her adult life, including a relationship with victim of the crime for which she has now been incarcerated for more than 16 years and who she maintains she killed in self-defense. Ms. Debohad no prior criminal history. While incarcerated, Ms. Debo has participated in numerous programs addressing the effects of abuse. Ms. Debo has earned certification as a hospice aid and has participated in several animal caretaker training programs, including Puppies Behind Bars as well as veterinary assistance, pet grooming, and dog obedience training.
There’s no indication that any of the people in this group are in the country illegally, but they were still clearly behind bars for a reason. There were two others convicted of murder in addition to the two in that excerpt. There was also a rather big-time drug dealer and a couple of people who went down for robberies combined with some other offenses. The pardons for the illegal aliens was simply done to help thwart the immigration enforcement process, which is perfectly on-brand for Cuomo. But the commutations were for more serious criminals.
Hey, Christmas is the season of forgiveness and generosity, right? But it’s worth remembering that each crime has one or more victims. Particularly in the case of murder, we have to wonder how the families of those victims feel about this sudden burst of charitable treatment and why these prisoners didn’t qualify for parole by now if they were so deserving of early release I’ve seen plenty of complaints from some of our associates on the left this week about the pardons that the President has been doling out and there’s certainly room to complain about a number of them. As we work our way through the holidays, I wonder if those same people will have anything to say about these.