MADISON (WKOW) — The lives of four men change forever after they were granted a pardon for crimes they committed years ago.
Governor Tony Evers issued Wisconsin’s first pardons in nearly a decade after re-creating a pardon board. Those granted a pardon include Eric Pizer, Kevin Sorenson, Mwangi Vasser, and Steven Nichols. Evers said all four have paid their debt to society and deserve a second chance.
27 News caught up with Pizer and Vasser just moments after receiving their certificate and plaque from the Governor’s office.
“That weight that preferable weight that’s bogging people down that keeps people from getting to where they want to be in life is finally lifted,” said Pizer.
Pizer, 38, was convicted for battery when he was 22 after getting into a bar fight after he was out celebrating his return home for a second tour of duty in Iraq.
Vasser was caught selling cocaine when he was 19. Now 40 years old, he said he can finally move on from his past mistake.
“It’s been a long, long battle and fight… When I got the news I was just overwhelmed, tears of joy,” said Vasser.
Both men said their past crimes don’t define who they are today.
Pardons do not erase their criminal records but it does provide them better career opportunities, the ability to vote, run for office, own a gun and apply for various licenses.
Pizer said he sought his pardon to apply for better jobs and possibly to pursue a career in law enforcement.
“I feel much lighter on my feet right now. I have a huge sigh of relief and I can finally get after the goals I’ve set for myself so long ago,” said Pizer.
Since his charge, Vasser received his doctorate in theology from Emmanuel Bible College and hopes his pardon will help him secure a role as a chaplain in the military.
“This is giving people hope and by the grace of God someone can look at me and say — hey — if it happened for him, it can happen for someone else as well,” said Vasser.
Two other individuals were granted a pardon, including Kevin Sorenson, who was convicted of a felony for selling ecstasy when he was 17. Now 36 years old, he has a career in the Air Force. He says he applied for a pardon to make him eligible for additional military service opportunities.
Steven Nichols, now 62 years old, was 21 when he committed a felony burglary and misdemeanor criminal damage to property. According to Mr. Nichols, he sought a pardon to return to hunting and to be able to travel to Canada to participate in the Calgary Stampede.
The Governor’s office said the pardon board received 210 applications. Ten more applicants will have a hearing to make their case to the board on Oct. 14th.