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Gov. Patrick issues his first commutation and pardons as he prepares to leave office in Jan.

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BOSTON — Gov. Deval Patrick made his first pardons on Monday as he prepares to leave office in January, and he commuted a prison sentence for a nonviolent drug offender — the first commutation by a governor in 17 years.

Patrick approved the commutation request of Deanne Hamilton, who has served more than half of a 7 1/2-year sentence on three drug charges, including possession of about 3.3 grams of cocaine and possession with intent to distribute the drug in a school zone. At the time, Hamilton was a drug addict in an apartment located about 700 feet from a school in Brockton.

Patrick, a Democrat and former staff lawyer with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, also granted pardons to four people who have been out of prison for years: Jeffrey Snyder, Guy James Coraccio, Thomas Schoolcraft and True-See Allah. The requests still require approval from the Governor's Council, which is an elected body that provides advice and consent on pardons, commutations and judicial appointments, among other things.

If approved, Hamilton, 49, would be eligible for parole; her current sentence requires her to serve her full sentence. Massachusetts' last commutation, which shortens but does not expunge a criminal sentence, came in 1997 under Republican Gov. William Weld.

In an Oct. 31 recommendation, the state Advisory Board of Pardons noted Hamilton has made "exceptional" strides in "self-development and self-improvement," including becoming drug-free.

The pardons represent a broad range of convictions. They would be the first since 2002 under Acting Gov. Jane Swift, if approved by the Governor's Council.

Allah, 44, was convicted in 1991 of armed assault with attempt to murder for his role in a shooting that left a man paralyzed. He was not the shooter. Coraccio, 64, seeks pardons for four criminal offenses that happened when he was between the ages of 14 and 21. Among them was larceny over $250.

Schoolcraft, 29, received a suspended sentence and two years' probation after being convicted of breaking and entering at a home in 2006. Snyder, 43, served two years in prison after being convicted in 1995 on drug-related charges, including possession of marijuana with intent to distribute in a school zone when he was in high school.

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