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Quinn grants 65 clemency requests

Published: Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013 8:39 a.m. CDT

(MCT) -- Gov. Pat Quinn issued pardons for crimes committed by a former Sauk Village trustee and a former Northwestern University football player as part of 65 clemency petitions he granted Friday.

The Democratic governor's move clears the way for the individuals seeking to expunge their court records. The governor also denied 124 requests for clemency, according to his office.

Among those pardoned were former Trustee Enoch Benson and former linebacker Braden Jones, who also played at Southern Illinois University and with the Minnesota Vikings.

In April 1995, two officers were awaiting Benson, 57, at his house with an arrest warrant involving the sale of his house as part of a divorce settlement, according to Quinn administration officials.

Police searched Benson's car, where they found a gun in a bag, officials said. Benson told officers the gun had been in the bag for many years and was used only at the firing range.

Benson, who filed his clemency petition in 2009, had no prior offenses, officials said. On Friday, Benson told the Tribune he wanted Quinn's office to confirm the pardon was granted in his unlawful use of weapon case before he would comment.

Quinn has acted on 2,648 clemency petitions since taking office in January 2009 in an attempt to cut down a backlog of cases that built up under his predecessor, Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is now in federal prison for corruption.

The case of football player Jones, 30, was not part of the backlog. Jones filed for the pardon in January 2012 to "pursue his dreams of becoming a surgeon," according to officials reviewing his case. Jones graduated from the Southern Illinois School of Medicine in May, according to the school's website.

Quinn pardoned Jones from a battery conviction resulting from an incident about 10 years ago in which a friend was stopped while attempting to bring alcoholic beverages into a Northwestern football game, according to state officials. Resisting an attempt to be escorted out of the stadium, Jones struck the usher while pulling his arm away, officials said.

Among other actions, Quinn pardoned Leatrice Saffore, 50, of theft, disorderly conduct, possession of drugs with the intent to deliver and attempted possession of drugs in cases from 1984 through 1998.

The Cook County mother of four made a pitch that she had undergone inpatient treatment in 1998 and has been sober with no convictions for 15 years, officials said.

During his time as governor, Quinn has granted 994 petitions for clemency, including 973 pardons.

He also authorized 21 people previously pardoned to seek expungement of convictions in court. He has denied 1,654.

(c)2013 the Chicago Tribune Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicago

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