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Governor McAuliffe pardons 6 Virginians given ‘excessive’ sentences

RICHMOND, Va. – On his final day as governor, Terry McAuliffe granted conditional pardons to six prison inmates who he said received sentences excessive for their crimes.

Though it may be the state’s first responsibility to keep the communities safe, McAuliffe said, “As we uphold that responsibility, we must continuously strive to ensure that the punishments offenders receive are commensurate with the crime they committed.”

McAuliffe, who announced the pardons Friday afternoon, will leave office Saturday when a fellow Democrat, Ralph Northam, is sworn in. The departing governor issued pardons to:

  • Travis Hassan May, who at 16 was convicted of numerous armed robberies in Virginia Beach in which no one was injured and sentenced to 160 years in prison. He has served more than 20 years and did not qualify for parole because of Virginia’s three-strikes laws.
  • Travion Blount, who at 15 held up a house party in Norfolk with two older men; no one was seriously injured in the crime. Despite being offered a plea deal for a 14-year sentence, Blount decided to go on trial and was given numerous life sentences along with 118 years. McAuliffe’s pardon reduced Blount’s sentence to 14 years.
  • Messiah Johnson

    Messiah Johnson, who was convicted of an armed robbery in Norfolk in which no one was injured and sentenced to 132 years in prison. Johnson has served more than 20 years. “There are serious questions about his guilt – he has always maintained his innocence and there is credible evidence that he was not guilty at all,” McAuliffe said.

  • Leonard Singleton

    Leonard Lenon Singleton, who became addicted to drugs after serving in the Navy. As a result, he began robbing people over thecourse of a year in Norfolk. Although no one was seriously injured, Singleton was sentenced to two life sentences plus 110 years. McAuliffe said Singleton “has been a model inmate for over a decade.”

  • Adrian Earl Davis, who was convicted of multiple robberies in Virginia Beach in 2001 and sentenced to 38 years in prison. Davis has successfully rehabilitated himself and served as a model inmate, McAuliffe said. The Virginia Parole Board recommended a conditional pardon.
  • Tawana Simmons Terry, who was convicted in Powhatan County of distributing $80 worth of crack cocaine and sentenced to 30 years in prison. “She has been a model inmate during her almost decade-long incarceration, completing numerous educational and rehabilitation programs,” McAuliffe said. Once released, Terry will be reunited with her three children.

All of the pardoned defendants will be supervised after their release.

“I am proud that each of these Virginians will serve an appropriate term and get a second chance at a more productive life,” McAuliffe said. “Going forward, I hope the General Assembly will consider the outrageous sentences in these cases and take appropriate steps to better balance safety and justice in the application of our laws.”

By Ahniaelyah Spraggs/Capital News Service

Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students participating in the program provide state government coverage for Virginia’s community newspapers and other media outlets, under the supervision of Associate Professor Jeff South.