AS HE PREPARES to leave office, Gov. Charlie Baker is rolling out the pardon pen.
On Wednesday, Baker pardoned four people for decades-old offenses, two weeks after he issued four other pardons. Together, these are the only pardons Baker has issued since he took office in 2015. The governor also previously commuted the sentences of two men convicted of murder, making them eligible for parole.
The individuals who obtained the recent pardons are Christopher Nichols, Thomas Schoolcraft, Zaida Pimentel-Solano, and Bertrand Lamitie.
Baker’s pardons must be confirmed by the Governor’s Council before they go into effect. The council already approved the pardons Baker issued October 12.
Modern governors have tended to use the power of the pardon infrequently and toward the end of their terms, when there is less political risk.
“Each of these individuals has shown compelling reasons for requesting a pardon, including the need to remove barriers that currently prevent them from accessing more professional opportunities,” Baker said in a statement. “These offenses all occurred many years ago, and since that time, all four individuals have committed themselves to bettering their lives and improving their communities.”
Two of the people are seeking pardons due to immigration issues.
The Advisory Board of Pardons unanimously recommended pardons for each of the individuals.
Nichols was convicted in 2002 on 10 charges, including breaking and entering, property destruction, trespassing, and underage alcohol possession. He was sentenced to 27 days on probation, and required to pay a fine, apologize, and do community service.
According to a summary of the case by the Advisory Board of Pardons, the Westford Police Department was called after a glass door at a local liquor store was shattered. Nichols and four friends were stopped nearby in a car. Nichols admitted that he went to a convenience store, tried to steal a 24-pack of beer, but the box broke, and he only got two cans. He and his friends then threw a rock at the glass door of the liquor store attempting to break in, but failed. They then went to a third store, where Nichols threw a rock through a door and stole a 12-pack of beer.
Nichols was 19 at the time and a high school senior. He admitted responsibility and says that he was struggling at the time with the recent death of two grandparents and his impending enlistment in the US Marine Corps. He and his friends were drinking heavily.
Nichols is currently head of Marine Corps Corrections and plans to retire after a 20-year career in the military, primarily in corrections. He holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and is pursuing a master’s degree. He is seeking a pardon so he can pursue a career in law enforcement and seek a firearms license.
Nichols got letters of support for his pardon from family members and colleagues who worked with him in the military. No one opposed his request.
Schoolcraft received a conditional pardon from former governor Deval Patrick in 2015, which did not allow him to carry a firearm. He is now seeking relief from that condition, which Baker agreed to grant.
Schoolcraft was 18 in 2004, when he was arrested for breaking into nine homes on Plum Island on the North Shore and in New Hampshire with a group of friends and stealing a pair of binoculars from one. He was incarcerated for eight months in New Hampshire, then given a suspended sentence in Massachusetts. He says he was young and immature and seeking items to steal and sell.
Schoolcraft works in corrections and says he needs to be allowed to carry a gun for most of the positions he is applying for. He worked briefly for the Massachusetts Probation Department and sought a job at the Suffolk County Jail, but had difficulties because of his criminal conviction. He moved to Minnesota because that state does not require correction officers to be eligible to carry a firearm.
Several correction officials supported Schoolcraft’s request for a pardon, as did one of the victims whose homes he broke into.
Pimentel-Solano was convicted of a drug distribution charge in 1996 and sentenced to one year in jail, suspended for a year of probation, which she completed.
Pimentel-Solano moved to the US from the Dominican Republic in 1994 at age 24 and worked for a cleaning company and in childcare. Pimental-Solano said she asked her boyfriend for a ride to work, and he stopped to interact with someone on the side of the road. They were pulled over by Boston police, and she said that was the first she learned that her boyfriend was dealing drugs. She told the police falsely that her name was Sandra Baez. Her attorney suggested she plead guilty, which she did, not knowing it would affect her immigration status.
Pimentel-Solano currently does not have legal immigration status. She is seeking a pardon so she can obtain legal residency in the United States and work. She told the Advisory Board of Pardons that she has volunteered for Head Start as a teacher’s assistant, watched local children who needed childcare, and became involved in community organizing in Boston helping families with young children. She is a single mother who raised four children in the US, two who still live with her. She said she has been offered jobs but had to turn them down because of her immigration status.
Family members and community members who have seen her volunteer work supported her pardon request.
Lamitie was convicted of possession with intent to distribute cocaine in 2001 in Cambridge and given a one-year sentence, with half of it suspended. He held a green card at the time, and after his six-month incarceration, he was transferred to immigration detention then deported to Haiti.
According to the Cambridge and Somerville police, Lamitie sold crack cocaine to an undercover officer and was found to possess additional drugs and other drug paraphernalia. He had four other criminal charges in the 1990s, although all of them were dismissed. They related to larceny, witness intimidation, driving with the wrong license plates and a revoked car registration, receiving a stolen car, and using a car without authority.
Lamitie said he moved from Haiti to Cambridge with his family at age six, started using drugs after an injury that occurred while he was in high school, was expelled, then started selling drugs to support his habit. He became sober in jail. He was unfamiliar with Haitian culture and language when he was deported there and had to be separated from his young daughter who was living in the US.
Lamitie emigrated to Canada in 2009, where he worked in security at McGill University, got married and had another two children. But he was denied Canadian citizenship because of his criminal conviction and had to return to Haiti, where he works as an interpreter. His children remain in Montreal and Massachusetts. He fears for his safety in Haiti and wants to be able to visit his family in the US and to reapply for Canadian citizenship.
Many friends and family testified in support of his petition.