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ALBANY - Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo ordered the release of two drug convicts Thursday, commuting their sentences because, he said, they were “deserving of a second chance.”
It was the first time during his five years in office that Cuomo, a Democrat, had commuted the sentences of inmates still serving prison time.
Before Thursday, Cuomo, who has been in office five years, had granted five retroactive pardons to individuals who already had completed their sentences and had been released. He granted two more of those Thursday, one to a New Jersey man who was convicted on a drug charge in Suffolk County 22 years ago.
The governor had faced criticism over the years from some groups for being stingy on granting pardons and clemencies. While announcing the pardons Thursday, Cuomo also said he would launch an initiative with various lawyers’ groups, including the New York Bar Association, to help inmates apply for clemency.
The governor didn’t say what types of convictions would likely be viewed as more likely to receive a pardon or a commutation. But he did release a list of conditions, available here.
From Cuomo’s news release about the two inmates who are set to be released after their sentences were commuted:
Lydia Ortiz, 70, of Rochester, is currently serving an aggregate sentence of 20 to 25 years in prison with five years of post-release supervision after being convicted in 1989 of Conspiracy, First-degree Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance, and Third-degree Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in Monroe County. Ms. Ortiz has severe mobility issues and is unable to walk without assistance. Ms. Ortiz has an excellent prison disciplinary history and, despite her physical limitations and difficulty moving about the facility, has completed several programs to prepare her for re-entry, including the Alternative to Violence Program. She has maintained ties with family and friends during her incarceration and plans to reside with her family upon release.
Michael Correa, 43, of the Bronx, was convicted in 2010 of two counts of Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree and Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Second Degree in New York County. Mr. Correa was battling substance abuse and sold drugs to an undercover officer to further support his addiction. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to eight years in prison and five years post-release supervision. Over the past five years in custody, Mr. Correa successfully achieved his high school equivalency and completed a program to prepare him for re-entry. Since 2014, he has participated in the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision’s temporary work release program and gained employment as a messenger for a New York City-based company. He is the father of three children and grandfather of three grandchildren.
Department of Corrections and Community Supervision officials are expeditiously processing both inmates for an actual release date of Oct. 27, 2015.
And here is the information about those pardoned Thursday:
Joseph Wilson, 66, of New York City, was convicted after a jury trial in 2006 in New York County of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Seventh Degree, Attempted Tampering with Physical Evidence, Resisting Arrest, and Obstructing Governmental Administration in the Second Degree. He successfully completed four days of community service and one year of conditional discharge, and received a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities on December 15, 2009. Mr. Wilson is a native of Liberia who has resided in New York City for over 40 years and these convictions have hampered his efforts to regain his legal residency and obtain viable employment. Mr. Wilson has two grown sons and four grandchildren. He has no other criminal history. Patrick Olivier, 43, of Jersey City, NJ, was convicted in 1993 of Third-degree Attempted Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in Suffolk County. Olivier was sentenced to 60 days in the Suffolk County Jail and five years of probation after pleading guilty. This was Mr. Olivier’s first and only criminal offense. Mr. Olivier has since obtained his general equivalency diploma, obtained his security guard’s license, and completed legal assistant training. Mr. Olivier is a lawful permanent resident from Haiti and seeks to become a U.S. citizen.
Patrick Olivier, 43, of Jersey City, NJ, was convicted in 1993 of Third-degree Attempted Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in Suffolk County. Olivier was sentenced to 60 days in the Suffolk County Jail and five years of probation after pleading guilty. This was Mr. Olivier’s first and only criminal offense. Mr. Olivier has since obtained his general equivalency diploma, obtained his security guard’s license, and completed legal assistant training. Mr. Olivier is a lawful permanent resident from Haiti and seeks to become a U.S. citizen.