Executive Clemency Board hearings back on schedule after Nikki Fried era
Marshall Criser is hoping Florida can float some more cash to its top-ranked universities.

After months without meeting, the reconstituted board returns to action.

One of the recurrent points of frustration of former Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried was a lack of state Clemency Board meetings over the course of her four years in office.

Time and time again, Fried condemned Gov. Ron DeSantis for canceling meetings of the board made up of Cabinet members, which decides whether to honor requests from ex-felons for civil rights restoration, sentence commutations or full pardons. She framed those canceled meetings as a “dereliction of duty.”

Fried, of course, is out of office after her unsuccessful bid for Governor last year. And perhaps coincidentally, the Executive Clemency Board is back on schedule, with Republican Wilton Simpson now in place as Agriculture Commissioner, removing the political component represented by Fried’s run for DeSantis’ Office.

After an approval of the minutes from the last meeting in March 2022, the board began its deliberations a few minutes after 9 a.m., working through dozens of cases in the space of a little more than two hours.

Off the top, DeSantis moved to approve 16 pardons without a hearing, quipping that if the recipients had in fact shown up for the meeting “should just leave, because all you can do is screw it up at this point.”

Cannabis pardons, a concern of former Commissioner Fried, were granted Wednesday, though not en masse.

71-year-old Victor Orfaly was arrested for possession of over 100 pounds of cannabis, and he was pardoned after voicing his remorse and requesting restoration to full citizenship. DeSantis moved to grant the pardon.

“I can’t express in words how much I appreciate it,” he said.

Others would have farther to go, meanwhile.

Meredith Gundersen spoke of her struggles with youthful addiction and how they have followed her as a “middle-aged woman.”

“I served my legal sentences a long time ago, but I am constantly living under the cloak of a life sentence,” she said, noting her inability to pass background checks and otherwise “continue to better myself for the rest of what life I have.”

DeSantis pressed her on how long she’d been “drug-free.”

She said “decades,” but DeSantis contended the State Attorney “recommended denial due to (her) continued drug behavior.”

Gunderson noted that she was not charged in an arrest around the year 2000, attributing the drugs to a “boy (she) was dating.”

DeSantis ultimately relented, noting her “desire to move beyond this” and her status as a “productive” citizen, moving toward the pardon.

Carlton Irvis was part of a home invasion robbery at the age of 17, and sought a pardon so he could apply for an insurance license.

“I was young, impressionable, and naive. Grew up in a pretty rough environment,” he noted.

“Were there people present?,” DeSantis asked.

Irvis confirmed there were — high school students. The victims of the home invasion were “unable to be contacted,” which didn’t sit well with DeSantis.

“Why don’t we try to get that? I appreciate what you’ve done. It seems like you’ve got great support. I’m happy to see that, but at the same time this is a serious offense. It’s not as in the distant past as some of these other grants that we’ve done. I think it’s incumbent on us to get that perspective,” DeSantis said, taking the request under “advisement.”

Meanwhile, the deep dives into people’s histories included discussions of misdemeanors

Adam Tedder of Valdosta, Georgia, sought a pardon for a “foolish mistake” of “carrying a concealed firearm” at a Hardees where he brandished a pistol and was “cutting up and playing.” But he also had to answer for a subsequent indecent exposure rap in 1991.

“Well, I was meeting a girl on the side of the road. A dirt road at night. She didn’t want her daddy to know that me and her was dating. And so, I’m sitting there waiting on them at the side of the road. A little dirt road. Black, dark,” he explained.

“I get out. Go to the restroom. She walks out. Had her sister with her. I had no idea,” Tedder said. “There was no activity with the girl whatsoever. I mean nothing. It was a misdemeanor, a foolish mistake.”

“I’ve made two mistakes in my life, and peeing on the side of the road is the worst one.”

DeSantis said the indecent exposure rap “seemed a little odd,” but the pardon was granted on the gunplay at the fast food joint.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


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