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Gov. Snyder pardons 35 people, reduces sentences for 26 more

Posted: 9:11 AM, Dec 29, 2018
Updated: 2018-12-29 14:13:21Z
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DETROIT (AP) — Gov. Rick Snyder pardoned 35 people with criminal convictions and reduced the prison sentences of 26 others, his office said Friday.

Snyder's office released a list of names late in the afternoon but refused to provide any other details.

A pardon erases a criminal conviction, while a commutation reduces a sentence but doesn't get rid of the conviction. In a statement, Snyder said he "took great time and care" in making decisions after cases were screened by the Corrections Department and the state parole board. The governor leaves office on Jan. 1.

The pardons include Usama "Sam" Hamama, a grocery store manager from West Bloomfield. He's the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the federal government's effort to deport Iraqi nationals who have criminal records. He was convicted of assault and other crimes decades ago.

"This was a man who 30 years ago made a mistake," attorney William Swor said. "He served time for it. And when he came out, he built a real life. He built a life that any one of us would envy. He has given back to his community many-fold."

Snyder commuted the sentence of John Topie, a retired high school basketball coach who won more than 400 games in Michigan's Thumb region. He was sentenced to at least five years in prison in 2017 for demanding fentanyl during an armed robbery at a pharmacy. He blamed his crime on addiction.

Snyder reduced the life sentence of Melissa Chapman, who has spent 30 years in prison for first-degree murder in Genesee County. She was present when a boyfriend killed another man in 1987 and admits that she helped him get rid of the body. But Chapman said her boyfriend had threatened to kill her.

Patricia Trevino's life sentence was also reduced. She's been in prison since 1980 for murder in Kent County.

Snyder commuted the sentences of others serving life terms for murder, including Demetrius Favors, 72, who has been in prison for 51 years.

A commutation doesn't mean an instant release from prison, but it typically makes someone eligible for parole. The parole board would then decide when to release a prisoner.

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Follow Ed White at http://twitter.com.edwhiteap