Hickenlooper grants clemency to 22, Dunlap not included

Author: Marianne Goodland - November 20, 2017 - Updated: November 21, 2017

TrumpColorado Gov. John Hickenlooper talks politics, beer and sports with Colorado Politics. (Photo by Andy Colwell/Colorado Politics)

In 1972 James Wachsman pled no contest in Routt County, Colo., to selling marijuana. After serving his time, Wachsman went on to start a business and a family and became a productive member of his community.

But that conviction has dogged Wachsman in at least one area: He likes to hunt. A letter sent to him Monday by Gov. John Hickenlooper and an executive order clears Wachsman’s conviction and will once again allow him to pursue one of his life’s passions.

On Monday Gov. John Hickenlooper granted clemency requests to 22 Coloradans who have served time, mostly for low-level drug offenses and a few more serious felonies. None of those granted clemency today were involved in domestic violence or other more serious bodily injury offenses.

Hickenlooper also told reporters Monday that in the 22 cases reviewed, victims did not object to the clemency requests, though he said some of the district attorneys and judges did not approve.

Hickenlooper made it clear today that among the 230 cases still under review, that of convicted Chuck E. Cheese killer Nathan Dunlap is not on the list and that he isn’t considering Dunlap for clemency.

For many, clemency will allow them to pursue career opportunities that have so far been denied them. That includes Linda Burch, who was convicted in Delta County of possession of eight ounces or more of marijuana in 1992. Since completing her sentence, Burch earned a certificate as a pharmacy technician but has been unable to obtain a job in that field because of her conviction.

Colorado should be the worst place in the nation to commit a crime, Hickenlooper said, but also the best place for a second chance.

Many of those on Monday’s clemency list were in their late teens. That includes Robert Busse, who pleaded guilty to first-degree criminal trespass in 1989 in Grand County. Five years ago Busse went through training at the police academy in Grand County with the hopes of becoming a deputy.

“I believe you deserve a second chance,” Hickenlooper told Busse in his letter. “You will now have to make the most of this opportunity.”

Matthew Eschenfelder pleaded guilty to theft — shoplifting of a video game — in Larimer County in 2005. Eschenfelder is now a vice president at Bank of America, but his conviction has “interfered with your ability to pursue your professional goals,” according to the governor’s letter.

You’ve demonstrated your capacity to live a productive life …. Others who have experienced circumstances similar to yours will look to you for guidance and inspiration. Show them how it’s done.”

The 22 granted clemency are:

Breanna Bright, who pleaded guilty in 2007 to theft in Douglas County.

Linda Burch, who pleaded guilty in 1992 to possession of eight or more ounces of marijuana in Delta County.

Robert Busse, who pleaded guilty in 1989 to first-degree criminal trespass in Grand County.

Jerome Casper, who pleaded guilty to theft in 1983 in Montrose County.

Donald Corkum, who pleaded guilty to theft in 1978 in El Paso County.

Trina Cutcher, who pleaded guilty to possession or sale of a schedule I or II controlled substance in 1996 in El Paso County.

Matthew Eschenfelder, who pleaded guilty in 2005 to theft in Larimer County.

Donald Haggart, who entered an Alford Plea in 1988 for aggravated motor vehicle theft in El Paso County.

Roger Harsh, who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor and felony marijuana possession in 1972 in Adams County.

Mark Horner, who pleaded guilty to theft in 1997 in Adams County. According to Hickenlooper’s letter, Horner has served as “an important role for those in your community who require hospice care.” He also rescued a mother and her two children from a vehicle that crashed on the highway with a tanker truck carrying gasoline.

Christopher Kerr, who pleaded guilty in 1994 to providing false information to a pawnbroker in El Paso County.

Travis Leach, who guilty to possession of eight or more ounces of marijuana in Jefferson County in 2005.

Judith Lopez, who pleaded guilty to second-degree forgery in 1982 in Denver; pleaded guilty to attempted theft in Adams County; and in 1987 pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance in Denver and theft in Jefferson County.

Joe Maestas, who pleaded guilty in 1992 to possession of a controlled substance in Denver. According to Hickenlooper’s letter, Maestas suffered from addiction, the result of military service in Vietnam. The conviction makes it difficult for him to find housing.

Louis Mitchell, who pleaded guilty to possession of eight ounces or more of marijuana in 2000 in El Paso County.

Charles Pope, who pleaded guilty to taking parts off a motor vehicle in Delta County in 1962; in 1967 he pleaded guilty to felony grand larceny in Montrose County. He also sought clemency in order to pursue his passion for hunting.

Demitrius Roberts, who pleaded guilty in 1995 to the possession or sale of a schedule I or II controlled substance in Denver.

Frances Sagel, who pleaded guilty to two counts of forgery in Morgan County in 1996 and one count of issuance of a bad check in Weld County.

Bounlom Souvannamacho, who pleaded guilty in 1994 to criminal attempt to commit theft of a person in Adams County and to “aggravated robbery with an armed confederate” in Jefferson County. Of the 22, Souvannamacho’s crime appears to be one of the most serious. But in his letter, Hickenlooper noted that the crimes committed took place when Souvannamacho was 18, and “even the victim of your more serious felony has taken notice of your efforts to live a productive life and does not oppose a pardon.”

Wayne Thomas, who pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery with the use of a deadly weapon in 1997 in Arapahoe County; a juvenile at the time, he was charged as an adult. Thomas has since gone on to finish high school and earn a bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in pursuit of a career in athletic training.

David Thyfault, who pleaded guilty to possession of narcotics in Weld County in 1969.

James Wachsman, who pleaded no contest to selling or dispensing marijuana in Routt County in 1972.

Hickenlooper said he expects another batch of clemency announcements later in the spring.

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland is the chief legislative reporter for Colorado Politics. She's covered the Colorado General Assembly for 20 years, starting off in 1998 with the Silver & Gold Record, the editorially-independent newspaper at CU that was shuttered in 2009. She also writes for six rural newspapers in northeastern Colorado. Marianne specializes in rural issues, agriculture, water and, during election season, campaign finance. In her free time (ha!) she lives in Lakewood with her husband, Jeff; a cantankerous Shih-Tzu named Sophie; and Gunther the cat. She is also an award-winning professional harpist.