President Donald Trump issued a pardon to Jon Ponder, a convicted bank robber and felon who later founded a program aimed at helping former inmates reenter society. The pardon came on a day Ponder also delivered a speech alongside Trump at the Republican National Convention, thus making his case for re-election.
Ponder's pardon comes exactly a week after Trump had told reporters that he was going to pardon someone 'very important'. The full pardon was signed by Trump in a seven-minute video released by the White House on Tuesday ahead of the second evening of programming for the GOP convention.
Who is Ponder?
Trump, during the signing of the pardon, described Ponder and his foundation as one of the most beautiful stories of redemption. "Two years ago, I was honored to tell Jon Ponder's story of transformation in the Rose Garden on the National Day of Prayer," Trump said in the video. "Jon's life is a beautiful testament to the power of redemption."
Ponder was a bank robber and a three-time convicted felon. He was granted pardons by the Nevada Board of Pardons for state crimes earlier this year. Trump's action clears a federal bank robbery charge from Ponder's record. Ponder has already completed his sentence, but the pardon will restore other rights such as voting.
Growing up in the streets of New York, Ponder at a very young age became involved in gangs, addicted to drugs and alcohol and was arrested for the first time at the age of 12. While in jail in 2004, when he was facing a 23-year sentence, he made a determined decision that he would change his life completely. Luckily, he was given just a five-year sentence. While served his sentence and founded the nonprofit in 2009.
On Tuesday, Trump described how Ponder completely changed after his arrest. He began studying the Bible in prison and later founded 'Hope for Prisoners,' a reentry program in Nevada that helps former prisoners start productive lives.
Trump All Praise for Ponder
Ponder's full pardon came as surprise to many but appeared to be coming for most after he was scheduled to be part of the convention on Tuesday night. Trump invited Ponder's wife into the room before announcing that he would grant him a full pardon.
Trump had previously hosted Ponder at the White House for the national day of prayer in 2018. That was the first time the two met. After that, Trump was invited as the guest speaker at the Hope for Prisoners graduation ceremony in Las Vegas in February. "I will continue to give all Americans, including former inmates, the best chance to build a new life and achieve their own American dream," Trump said in the video message.
At the convention, Ponder was accompanied by Richard Beasley, the former FBI agent who arrested him. Since then Ponder and Beasley have become friends and on Tuesday both delivered remarkable speeches on the theme "Land of Opportunity." "Today, praise God, I am filled with hope — a proud American citizen who has been given a second chance," said Ponder.
Last week, Trump had said that he would pardon a "very important" person. He at the same time cleared that it would neither be his former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn or whistleblower Edward Snowden. However, not too many had expected at that time that it would be Ponder.
Under Section 2 of the US Constitution, a sitting president has the power to grant reprieves and pardons "for offenses against the United States." Trump has earlier wielded his presidential power to pardon a few government officials including his longtime friend and advisor Roger Stone. He had also pardoned former NYPD Commissioner Bernie Kerik and commuted the prison sentence of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich in April.