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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo grants clemency to 10 people in his final days in office

Governor Cuomo
Posted at 6:48 AM, Aug 18, 2021

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has less than a week left until he officially resigns, and in his final days in office, he has granted 10 people clemency.

The outgoing governor said in a press release Tuesday that those to which he granted clemency have "demonstrated substantial evidence of rehabilitation and commitment to their communities."

He commuted the sentences of five people and fully pardoned five others.


  • Nehru Gumbs was convicted of manslaughter, criminal weapon possession and assault when he was 18 years old in 2005. He has served 17-and-a-half years out of a 25-year sentence. He served as the Youth Counselor at Sing Sing's Youth Assistance Program and earned an associate's degree (cum laude) from Mercy College.
  • Jon-Adrian Velasquez was convicted of second-degree murder, attempted murder, robbery and attempted robbery in 1999. He has served 23-and-a-half years out of a 25-year-to-life sentence. While in prison, he graduated with honors in both an associate's and bachelor's degree program and helped establish an educational initiative combating gun violence through the voices of incarcerated people called "Voices From Within."
  • George Martinez was convicted of burglary and attempted burglary, among other charges — serving 15 years out of a 17-and-a-half-year-to-life sentence. While in custody, he became a well-regarded cook, voluntarily cooking for various events, including a ceremony for the New York Theological Seminary.
  • Dontie Mitchell was convicted of robbery, criminal use of a firearm and several other crimes, including crimes he committed when he was 17 years old and homeless. He has served 24-and-a-half years out of a 27-to-54-year sentence. While incarcerated, Mitchell has focused on mentoring other young men who grew up without role models.
  • Richard "Lee" Chalk was convicted of second-degree murder, robbery, burglary and criminal possession of a weapon in 1988, serving 33 years of a 50-years-to-life sentence. While in custody, Chalk earned training certificates in various fields, including legal research, food service, sighted guide training, and the Fatherhood & Family Law Program. He also volunteered with Project Care and the American Cancer Society.


  • James Pamphile was convicted of bail jumping, assault and attempted assault. He has remained crime-free for eight years and a pardon will help allow him to remain in the United States.
  • Ivelisse Castillo was convicted on drug charges in 2001. She has remained crime-free for the last 19 years and is a volunteer at a community garden, a local rehabilitation and nursing home, and her church.
  • Jorge Quinones was convicted of attempting to sell drugs. Since his 1996 conviction, Quinones earned a Master's Certificate from Boston University's computer engineering program, and launched a successful career working with various companies in the cybersecurity industry, including building communication helmets for the U.S. military.
  • Miriam Ordonez was convicted of attempting to sell drugs when she was 17 years old and working at a coffee shop run by a drug dealer who sought out and took advantage of undocumented children.
  • Catherine Valdez was convicted of attempted robbery when she was 16 years old. Since her 2002 conviction, Valdez has worked as a professional caregiver, earning a Personal Care Assistant certificate. She is currently working toward earning a Home Health Aid certification and hopes to become a nurse.

"One of the foundational promises of New York State is that of equal justice, and equal compassion, for all under the law," Cuomo said in a statement. "These ten clemencies are another step on the long march towards a more fair, more just, more equitable, and more empathetic New York. I thank all the volunteer attorneys representing clemency applicants for their dedication and service to the cause of justice and rehabilitation."

This story was originally published by Tim Meehan on Scripps station WKBW in Buffalo, New York.