Patrick Nolan, a former Republican legislator in the California State Assembly who pleaded guilty in an FBI sting targeting illegal campaign contributions in 1994, was granted a full pardon by President Donald Trump, the White House announced Wednesday.
Nolan took to Twitter to share the news and thank the POTUS for granting clemency. “I am so grateful that God used my time in prison to open my eyes to injustice, and equipped me to advocate for the voiceless. And I am thankful that President Trump saw fit to grant me a pardon,” he tweeted.
A presidential pardon can be issued at the time an offense is committed, and even after the full sentence has been served. It essentially absolves a person of guilt for an alleged crime or other legal offenses, as if the act never occurred.
While serving 15 years in the state legislature, Nolan was one of the original sponsors of the Victims’ Bill of Rights (Proposition 15) — which upheld the rights of victims in criminal cases to “privacy and dignity, and to be free from intimidation, harassment and abuse” — for which he was awarded the “Victims Advocate Award” by the organization Parents of Murdered Children.
He was charged with conspiracy, extortion, money-laundering and racketeering, after being accused of using his political office to solicit illegal campaign contributions. In 1994, Nolan was secretly recorded accepting checks from an undercover FBI agent. He eventually pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering and served 29 months in a federal prison. The White House said in a statement Wednesday that at the time, Nolan’s decision to plead guilty was not an easy one.
“He could defend himself against charges of public corruption and risk decades in prison, or he could plead guilty and accept a 33-month sentence,” the White House said. “Determined to help his wife raise their three young children, Mr. Nolan chose to accept the plea.”
“Mr. Nolan’s experiences with prosecutors and in prison changed his life. Upon his release, he became a tireless advocate for criminal justice reform and victims’ rights,” the statement added.
Nolan currently serves as the director of the American Conservative Union Foundation’s Nolan Center for Justice, which was established in 2014 and mobilizes “public support for criminal justice reforms based on conservative principles, and works with government officials to effectively implement those reforms,” according to its website.
He moderated a prominent panel at Conservative Political Action Conference 2014 on prison reform featuring Texas Gov. Rick Perry, that received widespread media attention. He also worked with Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner on prison revisions last year to address a number of issues such as skyrocketing costs of prison, fiscal responsibility in the criminal justice system and reforms for non-violent offenders.
Nolan is the author of the book “When Prisoners Return,” which delves into the important role of the Church in helping prisoners get back on their feet after they are released. He has co-authored articles for the Notre Dame Law School Journal of Law, Ethics and Public Policy and the Regent Law School Law Review.
Nolan is a member of the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission and served on the National Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons. He is also a member of the Right on Crime project — a movement of GOP lawmakers who advocate reforms in the criminal justice system.
Apart from Nolan, Trump also granted clemency to Lord Conrad M. Black, a former newspaper publisher who authored a book titled “Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other.” He had previously spent three-and-a-half years in jail after a 2007 fraud conviction.