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Governor's Council backs 3 clemency requests, first ones approved in more than a decade

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BOSTON — The Governor's Council on Wednesday approved the first clemency requests in more than a decade in Massachusetts, voting to commute the prison sentence of a woman convicted of drug charges and grant pardons to two men who had sought to expunge from their records crimes that occurred during their youth.

The council voted 6-2 to approve Gov. Deval Patrick's decision to commute the 7 ½-year sentence of Deanne Hamilton, formerly of Brockton, who was convicted of possession of about 3.3 grams of cocaine and possession with intent to distribute the drug in a school zone. The vote makes Hamilton, a onetime drug addict who argued that she had turned her life around and was drug-free, immediately eligible for parole.

Hamilton, 49, was the first commutation to go before the eight-member elected council since 1997.

The panel voted unanimously to approve pardons for Jeffrey Snyder, of Sheffield, and Guy James Coraccio, of Westfield. The pardons were the first of Patrick's two terms and the first issued since 2002, under then-acting Republican Gov. Jane Swift.

Snyder, 43, is a cancer survivor who 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.

Coraccio, 64, was convicted of four criminal offenses when he was between ages 14 and 21 and sought a pardon so he could obtain a firearms permit for target shooting.

Patrick, who leaves office on Jan. 8, has also requested pardons for two other men, Thomas Schoolcraft and True-See Allah. The council has not yet taken votes on those.

Among others seeking pardons in Massachusetts is actor Mark Wahlberg, who was convicted of violent assaults committed as a troubled teen in Boston in 1988. The state parole board would first have to hold a hearing for Wahlberg before sending a recommendation to the governor, who in turn would decide whether to issue a pardon subject to approval by the Governor's Council.

Councilor Terrence Kennedy, arguing Wednesday in support of a commutation for Hamilton, noted her difficult background as a child who grew up as one of a family of 10 in a single-parent home in a Brockton housing project.

"The deck was stacked against her," said Kennedy, adding that Hamilton has worked hard in rehabilitation.

"I can absolutely see no purpose ... for her and her continued recovery or for society, to send her back to state prison for four more years," said Kennedy.

Councilors Jen Caissie and Marilyn Devaney voted against the commutation, citing among other things Hamilton's lengthy arrest record, which they said included more than 60 court appearances.

"This is about a career criminal who's made some bad choices again and again and again and again," Caissie said. "And she's probably in the best place she can be right now to make sure she's safe, she's not a danger to herself or a danger to the public."

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