Arkansas governor plans to pardon son for felony: 'hopefully the kids learn'

The Arkansas Parole Board says it didn't give 'any special treatment' to the pardon application by the governor's son for a 2003 drug charge.

Danny Johnston/AP
Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe speaks to reporters at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., Nov. 5, 2014.

Outgoing Gov. Mike Beebe (D) of Arkansas has said he will pardon his son of a decade-old felony crime, according to a local television station.

The governor's son, Kyle Beebe, was charged in 2003 with possession of a controlled substance, marijuana, with intent to deliver. He was sentenced to three years' probation and fined, according to KATV, ABC's affiliate in Little Rock, Ark. Governor Beebe was the state's attorney general at the time.

The elder Beebe said he was "embarrassed" by the 2003 charge and told KATV he would have pardoned his son earlier had he asked for it.

"He was embarrassed. He's still embarrassed, and frankly, I was embarrassed and his mother was embarrassed. All of the families that go through that, it's tough on the families, but hopefully the kids learn," Beebe told the station on Wednesday.

Kyle Beebe, now in his mid-30s, had to write a lengthy letter to his father asking for a pardon, according to KATV. In the letter he wrote that, at the time of his arrest, he was "young and dumb" and "living in a fantasy world."

"At that time in my life I felt like I was missing something and I tried to fill that emptiness by selling drugs," the letter read. "Mr. Governor, I am asking for a second chance at life. I am asking for a second chance to be the man that I know that I can be."

All applications for pardon in the state are reviewed by the Arkansas Parole Board. The board then makes a recommendation to the governor about whether the pardon should be granted. The recommended pardons are posted publicly for 30 days, after which the governor makes a decision. The governor usually follows the recommendation of the board.

The Arkansas Parole Board recommended Mr. Beebe for pardon on Oct. 20 and told KATV that he "did not receive any special treatment by the board while his application was under consideration."

In a statement, the board said that Beebe's application was "with merit" and that there was "no law enforcement objection to the request."

At the time of his son's arrest, Beebe said that if he broke the law, "he needs to be treated like everybody else – no better, worse."

Beebe has been getting more heat locally for planning to pardon a friend of the family: Michael E. Jackson, who was convicted in 2008 of stalking a child on the Internet. A pardon would remove Mr. Jackson's designation as a sex offender, and Beebe said he was confident Jackson wasn't a risk to the community – based in part on his own knowledge of him, according to the Arkansas Times. But county officials and legislators objected to the planned pardon, and Beebe has since said he won't grant the pardon.

Governor Beebe says he's granted more than 700 pardons during his governorship, mostly to nonviolent offenders. If a pardon is granted in Arkansas, the record of the criminal felony will be "expunged," meaning it will be sealed and treated as confidential. The conviction then cannot be used against the individual in an application for most types of licenses, registrations, or certificates. Most of the individual's civil rights are also restored, according to the governor's website, including the right to vote, serve on a jury, and bear arms.

Beebe has given out more pardons in his almost eight years in office than other prominent governors. Gov. Rick Perry (R) of Texas has issued 221 pardons since taking office in December 2000, according to The Texas Tribune. Although Gov. Jerry Brown (D) of California has made hundreds of pardons since taking office in 2011, the three governors who preceded him gave out a total of 29 over 20 years. Gov. Deval Patrick (D) of Massachusetts is planning on pardoning three men before he leaves office at the end of the year. They would be the first pardons by a governor in the state since 2002.

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