CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — An Athens man, who was pardoned by President Barack Obama of a petty crime committed more than a half-century ago still can’t own handguns.
Roy Grimes received word on March 1 that the president had pardoned him for altering a $41 money order in December 1960 and depositing it. The 72-year-old Grimes had asked for the pardon, partly because he likes classic Western heroes and wanted to collect the weapons they used.
According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press (http://bit.ly/11gwE0r), Grimes’ attorney, Patrick Noel, checked with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and was told there is no provision for restoring the handgun ownership rights of someone convicted of a crime. Not even a presidential pardon changes that.
The TBI said the Tennessee Code Annotated, 39-17-1307(c)(1), states “A person commits an offense who possesses a handgun and has been convicted of a felony.”
The statute says nothing about restoring gun ownership rights, by pardon or by any other means.
There is disagreement on the issue.
Former Assistant U.S. Attorney General Walter Dellinger wrote on the same issue in 1995 that a state cannot deny someone’s right to own a firearm if the president has pardoned that person. Dellinger wrote that the U.S. Constitution allows presidents the right to pardon people who have been convicted and the Supremacy Clause declares states cannot override the federal government.
The TBI, however, cites a state statute passed in 2008 — 26-0 in the Senate and 87-3 in the House — that opposes the opinion.
“The state law changed since the opinion was rendered in 1995,” TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm wrote in an email. “Mr. Grimes received his pardon after that law was passed.”
The conclusion astounded Margaret Love, the U.S. pardon attorney from 1990-97.
“How could that possibly make any difference?” Love asked. “The holding of the opinion is that a presidential pardon removes automatic disabilities imposed by state law based on the pardoned conviction. Period.”
A similar case id now before the Tennessee Court of Appeals. It involves the 1989 conviction in Georgia of David Blackwell on three felony drug offenses. He was later pardoned by a Georgia governor and moved to Tennessee, where he also found he couldn’t get a handgun.
Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper weighed in with a 2009 opinion that a felon can’t have a handgun in Tennessee, pardon or not.
Blackwell’s attorney, David Raybin, asks what’s the point of a pardon?
“They’re saying it’s worthless,” Raybin said. “They’re saying it’s just a piece of paper. That’s it.”
A money order for $40.83 cost Roy Grimes more than he could have ever imagined, reports the News Sentinel.. After living 52 years as a felon for altering the payee’s name and then cashing a money order he and a friend came across back in 1960, Grimes feels that his debt has been paid. Now, he has the documentation to prove it.
On March 1, Grimes was in his Athens, Tenn., home when he received a phone call from his lawyer, Patrick Noel, who informed him that his request for a presidential pardon had been approved.
“I told him, ‘Hallelujah!’ ” said a smiling Grimes on Friday after getting his first look at the pardon. “It’s been a real albatross for me.”
Grimes, 72, has lived his entire adult life under the impression that he would never be able to vote or buy a gun because of the conviction he received as a 20-year-old. That was until three years ago, when he came across the possibility of getting a presidential pardon.
He began recounting his life’s journey in the 20-page application that eventually turned into 40 pages.
“He was very meticulous about his pardon application, which really showed and helped,” Noel said of his client. “He, if anybody, deserves a pardon.”
Unfortunately for Grimes, the decision wasn’t Noel’s to make. So after six months of perfecting his application Grimes mailed it to President Barack Obama’s Office of Pardon Attorney in August 2010.
There was no word on the status for more than 2½ years. Then came the March 1 phone call.
A Davidson County court ruling could aid felons pardoned in other states who want to own guns in Tennessee, reports The Tennessean.
It’s the result of a Franklin nurse who wanted to go squirrel hunting with his son.
David Scott Blackwell was convicted on felony drug charges in Georgia but received a full pardon there in 2003. He moved to Tennessee in 2009 and sought to own a gun but was denied a permit by the state. His victory in Davidson County Chancery Court, if it stands, probably will pave the way for others to regain their gun rights.
The ruling also adds to a growing legislative and judicial movement across the nation toward allowing more felons to regain their civil rights.
“The decision is really far-reaching because people have Tennessee pardons,” said Blackwell’s attorney, David Raybin, a Nashville defense attorney who often handles felon civil rights cases. “I have a couple of clients who have been waiting in the wings for this decision because they have Tennessee pardons and they want to get firearms.”
Blackwell, who works in home health care, said the journey has been frustrating. He doesn’t have his gun yet. He’s waiting to see if the ruling is appealed, which the state is mulling over, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee attorney general said.
“I rebuilt my life and went back to college. I got a full pardon with my gun rights restored, moved up here, and (Tennessee) said I couldn’t purchase a gun,” Blackwell said. “I just wanted to go buy a little .22 to go squirrel hunting with my kid, who’s now 14. We’ve missed three or four hunting seasons now.”
A three-year effort to obtain a pardon from the president of the United States ended Monday when a Jonesborough, Tenn., man learned Barack Obama had pardoned him of a 16-year-old federal felony conviction, reports the News Sentinel. In a written statement, Thomas Paul Ledford of Jonesborough said he was contacted by phone at 9:50 a.m. on Monday that the president had signed his pardon.
“I’m stunned,” he wrote. “I am a pardoned felon. My wife believed it was possible. I believed the pardon would never be granted.”
Ledford pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit gambling on June 12, 1995. He was fined $50 and served 12 months of probation.
“Although I never spent one day in jail, the gravity of my conviction follows me always,” he said in a Dec. 9, 2008, request for pardon.
…Saundra Ledford got the application from the Department of Justice online. Next, they collected the necessary documentation, court transcripts and letters of recommendation. Then they sent the package off to Washington, D.C.. An FBI agent then interviewed Ledford’s friends, family and employers.
“My husband was very adamant no calls be placed to anyone,” Saundra Ledford said. “We don’t know anybody in positions of power. A lot of people say you have to have clout. We’re just regular people.”
In his statement, Tom Ledford thanked the president: “By God’s grace, I won’t let them down.”
A man who received a full pardon in Georgia for a felony drug conviction is suing in Tennessee to obtain the right to own abd carry a gun, reports The Tennessean.
David Scott Blackwell, who now lives in Franlkin, is suing the state after being denied a gun permit in Tennessee, arguing that the Georgia pardon fully restored his rights — even the right to bear arms.
(The case) has brought out unusually vocal support from Second Amendment advocates, who in prior years have been hesitant to support some felons’ rights to possess firearms. Among those advocates is the Tennessee Firearms Association, which downplays the fact that Blackwell is a convicted felon, instead painting it as a conflict between the constitutional powers of the pardon and Tennessee lawmakers who have written laws to restrict felons’ rights.
This marks the first time in the association’s 16 years that it has filed a brief in any lawsuit.
“Georgia’s pardon system granted him a full pardon, and it specifically
says he has the right to purchase and acquire guns,” said John Harris, a Nashville attorney who serves as the volunteer executive director for the Tennessee Firearms Association. “This is a question of, can the Tennessee General Assembly pass a statute that restricts the constitutional authority of another branch of the government?”
Blackwell failed to convince a Davidson County Chancery Court judge, but has appealed. The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently heard arguments and is considering the case.
“The pardon restores constitutional rights — that’s what a pardon does,” said Blackwell’s attorney, David Raybin. “Therefore, it restores his right to a firearm. That’s it, in its simplest terms.”
But the state is opposing Blackwell, saying laws passed by the Tennessee legislature prohibiting felons from possessing firearms apply to those whose rights have been restored.
“It is reasonable for the legislature to determine that felony drug offenders, even those who subsequently receive a pardon, are likely to misuse firearms in the future,” wrote the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office. “This is due to the well-known connection between guns and drugs.”
Court records show Blackwell was convicted in 1989 in Georgia on three counts of selling cocaine. He was sentenced to nine years in prison and fined $3,000. In 2003, he applied and received a full, unconditional pardon. And that pardon spelled out what Blackwell was regaining.
“All civil and political rights, including the right to receive, possess, or transport in commerce a firearm … are hereby restored,” the Georgia pardon reads.
In 2009, having moved to Tennessee, Blackwell sought out information on whether he could possess a firearm here, writing to state Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin, who in turn asked Tennessee’s attorney general for guidance.
The attorney general said Blackwell could not own a gun here.
Raybin said that legislation — like Tennessee’s prohibition on felons owning guns — is trumped by powers enshrined in a state’s constitution — like the power to pardon and restore felons’ rights. When the two conflict, the constitution should win, he said.