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Otter signs first two pardons as governor, both for first-time drug-sale offenders

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has pardoned two first-time offenders who were convicted of selling drugs to undercover officers, years after they served their time, paid all restitution and fines, met and exceeded the terms of their parole and lived for years in society as employed, productive citizens. They are the only pardons Otter’s signed since he first was elected governor in 2006. “I do not condone the sale or manufacture of illegal drugs,” Otter wrote in his orders approving the pardons of each of the two men, Eric Robert Hinckley, 37, and Robert Frank Thornton, 57. “Notwithstanding these concerns, there are several mitigating factors that weigh in favor of clemency.”

Hinckley was convicted of delivery of a controlled substance in 2002 in Bonneville County, for selling methamphetamine. Since completing his sentence and his parole, he’s obtained a college degree, married and held the same job for nine years. Thornton was convicted of two counts of delivery of a controlled substance, cocaine, in an undercover police operation in Ada County in 1992. Like Hinckley, he pled guilty, completed his sentence and parole; since then, he’s been a law-abiding citizen for 17 years; he is employed as a construction supervisor. Both men are married with children and own homes. “This is the way it’s supposed to work,” Otter said in a statement. “We send people to prison to protect the public, for punishment and as a deterrent. But we also send them to prison to be rehabilitated and, we hope, to be redeemed as citizens, neighbors, fathers, husbands and taxpayers. Too often it doesn’t work out that way. But for Robert Thornton and Eric Hinckley, it did. I’m proud of them. I’m confident they’ll stay on track.”

Otter’s press secretary, Jon Hanian, said although the orders were dated April 8, Otter just signed them last week. “So we just put it out,” he said. “He was doing is own due diligence; that’s what took so long.” The two cases had “unique circumstances,” Hanian said, including unanimous recommendations from the state Commission on Pardons and Parole to grant pardons. “These are the first two pardons that the governor has ever signed,” Hanian said. “It’s unusual that one reaches the governor’s office.”


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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