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Braddock mayor and Pennsylvania U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman is the latest person to call on Gov. Tom Wolf to pardon McKeesport business owner Corry Sanders.
Sanders was elected to McKeesport city council in November, but the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office this week warned city officials that Sanders was ineligible to serve because he pleaded guilty in 1993 to two felony drug offenses.
"The voters of McKeesport have democratically chosen (Corry) Sanders to serve as their representative, and we should not let a drug conviction from a quarter-century ago block the will of the people," Fetterman said yesterday. "I call on Governor Wolf to issue a pardon for Mr. Sanders to give the people of McKeesport the democratic representative they voted for."
Fetterman said Sanders' inability to take his council seat --- despite a long track record of clean behavior, which includes service as a church deacon and in numerous responsible positions --- "represents so much about what is wrong with our broken system."
Fetterman is seeking the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in the May primary.
A drug conviction, Fetterman said, "should not banish one for life from fully participating in our democracy."
"But in this country, non-violent offenders are denied opportunities for the rest of their lives --- whether it’s being shut out of jobs or deprived of their fundamental rights," he said. "We can’t be surprised that so many end up back on drugs and back in prison."
"The war on drugs is more than just a failure," Fetterman said. "It’s a national disgrace. And we won’t be able to fix it until we stop looking at addiction as a crime and start treating it like a disease."
Sanders has retained Westmoreland County attorney Rachel Morocco to represent him before the state Board of Pardons.
The Tribune-Review reported yesterday that the pardons process is lengthy; reporter Matthew Santoni noted "it can take up to six months to get a complete criminal history from the state, two years to get a visit from a state parole agent for interviews, and a year before a case gets to the five-member pardons board for a recommendation to the governor."
Santoni quoted a Lawrence County minister who was elected to New Castle City Council in 2011 but was blocked from taking his seat because of a 2002 felony drug conviction. The minister, Gary Mitchell, was denied a pardon by then-Gov. Tom Corbett. “The courts will not wait, and the pardons board will not expedite,” Mitchell told Santoni.
Originally published January 06, 2016.