Calif. governor grants clemency to 21 violent offenders

By Michael McGough
The Sacramento Bee

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Gavin Newsom is commuting the sentences of 21 violent offenders incarcerated in California prisons, including four men who have convictions related to homicides in Sacramento County, the governor’s office announced Friday.

Jacoby Felix, Crystal Jones, Andrew Crater and Luis Alberto Velez were convicted of separate murders in the 1990s. All four, now granted commutations by Newsom, were convicted in Sacramento County and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

California Governor Gavin Newsom granted clemency to 21 offenders on September 16, 2019. Photo Credit: KTLA

The clemency action was announced Friday in a statement from the governor’s office, which describes the crimes committed by those four men and 17 other state prisoners, and explains the reasoning for commuting their sentences.

“The Governor carefully reviewed each application and considered a number of factors, including the circumstances of the crime and the sentence imposed, the applicant’s conduct while in prison and the applicant’s self-development efforts since the offense, including whether they have made use of available rehabilitative programs and addressed treatment needs,” a statement from Newsom’s office said.

Youth offender status was another important factor considered, with 15 of the 21 total commutations involving inmates convicted before the age of 26. The four Sacramento County grantees were all between ages 18 and 26 at the time of their crimes.

Velez has served more than 28 years of his sentence for killing an armed guard during a robbery in 1991. Velez was 26 at the time.

Felix, 18 at the time of his crime, fatally shot a man in 1993 during a carjacking, and has served 26 years.

Jones has served nearly 20 years for a 1999 drug-related murder.

Crater was convicted of first-degree murder for the death of musician Jim Pantages. Evidence shown at separate trials indicated that while it was Crater’s partner Thomas Robinson who pulled the trigger, Crater had supplied the gun, the car and the plan used in a June 1995 crime spree that included a string of armed robberies. Crater has served more than 24 years of his sentence.

Newsom’s commutations would make each offender eligible for suitability hearings with the state Board of Parole Hearings.

The commutations can be upheld or rejected by the California Supreme Court. The court blocked 10 clemency actions by former Gov. Jerry Brown in his final weeks in office, marking the first time since 1930 that a California governor’s commutation requests had been denied.

But Velez and Jones’ cases have already been reviewed and recommended by both the Board of Parole Hearings and the California Supreme Court, according to Friday’s news release. Those advance reviews are required by law for any commutation case involving an applicant with multiple felony convictions.

Velez, Felix and Crater would be eligible for parole suitability hearings in 2020. Jones would be eligible in approximately 2023 after serving 25 years of his life sentence.

Also included in Newsom’s commutations are Marcus McJimpson, who has served 31 years of two life terms for a 1988 Fresno County double murder, and 80-year-old Doris Roldan, who has been imprisoned since 1981 for the first-degree murder of her husband.

Roldan of Los Angeles County – who now uses a wheelchair, as noted in the governor’s statement – was recommended for clemency by her warden.

©2019 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)