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Men receiving pardons from Gov. Evers react to life-changing event

MADISON (WKOW) — On Monday, Governor Tony Evers will issue the first four pardons of his term. They are also the first pardons in the state in nearly a decade.

The Associated Press reports Evers plans to pardon Eric Pizer, Kevin Sorenson, Mwangi Vasser and Steven Nichols, saying all four have paid their debt to society and deserve a second chance.

27 News was able to get in touch with Pizer, Vasser, and Nichols Sunday night. Each man said they took advantage of Evers’ pardoning process, something that had not been available during former Governor Scott Walker’s term.

“I’m so full of emotions, I don’t know which direction to look,” said Vasser when 27 News reached him by phone Sunday. “I’m excited, I’m nervous, I’m scared, I’m overwhelmed. I know I’m blessed.”

Vasser was arrested and convicted of selling cocaine when he was 18. Now, nearly 41, he said his conviction has haunted him for more than two decades.

“It was drugs, it was wrong, and I was wrong,” he said. “But I never would have known that a felony would have hindered me such as it has.”

Eric Pizer, 38, has been overcoming a conviction of substantial battery since he was 22-years-old. He got in a bar fight just after he returned home from his second tour of duty in Iraq.

“The felony wasn’t who I am,” he said. “Ever since that one incident, it’s been almost 15 years, and I’ve been a law abiding citizen.”

Pizer lives in the Madison area and said his lawyers have worked hard with him for years, meeting many failures under Walker. He did not issue any pardons during his time in office. Pizer said the minute Evers was elected, his lawyer David Relles called him and said “we’ve got another chance.”

“Part of me still doesn’t believe it’s happening but the other part of me is dancing like a little kid that just got a Christmas present that he wanted,” said Pizer.

While a pardon doesn’t erase a conviction, it restores many rights, including the right to vote and own a gun. For Steven Nichols, 62, it also means being able to visit Canada. He was convicted of felony burglary at 21.

Nichols lives in La Crosse, WI and told 27 News Sunday that he wants to head over the border so he can go to the Calgary Stampede, an annual rodeo and exhibition festival. He said he and his wife applied for the first time when Evers opened the application process. When his wife called him to tell him the news, he said he cried.

“That’s not like me,” he said, laughing.

Vasser has since moved down south, recently living in Georgia. His earliest memory of the conviction affecting his life was when he was removed from a college class because of his record. Despite now receiving a doctorate in theology, being an ordained minister, and creating new programs to help his community, he said he still faces roadblocks.

He was recently denied grant money for his community programs because of his conviction. He said now a pardon from Evers could change everything.

“You can see the future now from things that were hindered in the past because of something foolish that I did as a young man,” he said.

He has hopes to become a military chaplain. Pizer said he wants to fulfill a lifelong dream of becoming a police officer.

The men said they are excited for the new opportunities awaiting them after Monday’s pardon. The men are set to meet Evers in the afternoon for an official pardoning ceremony.

Sara Maslar-Donar

Reporter, WKOW 27 News

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