Gov. Polis commutes four sentences, including that of 84-year-old Sterling inmate

Pardons granted to 18 people, including parents of the infamous ‘balloon boy’

Gov. Jared Polis discusses the coronavirus pandemic during a media briefing on Nov. 17, 2020. (Moe Clark/Colorado Newsline)

Kelly Brasier has had a room for her uncle ready in her Pennsylvania home for over six years. Before her father died, she promised him that if her uncle got out of prison, he would have a safe place to come home to.

“I’m keeping that final wish to my dad,” said Brasier, whose uncle, Anthony Martinez, was granted clemency on Wednesday by Gov. Jared Polis. Martinez, who is 84 years old and wheelchair bound, has been incarcerated for over 30 years. He was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole in 1989 for nonviolent crimes. 

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Polis also commuted the sentences of three other inmates on Wednesday, saying that the men had served their time and shown rehabilitation. The four men will be released on parole by Jan. 15. Along with the four commutations, Polis also granted 18 pardons. 

“Pardons and commutations make second chances possible for people,” Polis said in a written statement. “These individuals have taken responsibility for their past actions, paid a price to society, and demonstrated the ability to turn themselves around and live responsibly.”

Brasier said she’s excited to learn Spanish from her uncle and to garden together in the backyard. She said she’s grateful he’s being released but hopes Polis expedites the process to release more medically vulnerable people from the state’s prisons during the pandemic.

A drawing by Anthony Martinez, an 84-year-old inmate at the Sterling Correctional Facility. (Provided by the ACLU of Colorado)

“I wish the governor would have done more, because there are a lot of other people just like him in there,” Brasier said, referring to her uncle. “I hope those families don’t have to fight so hard and so long like I did.”

In Polis’ commutation letter, he said Martinez’s case highlights the need for reforming the state’s special needs parole process. In addition to being confined to a wheelchair, Martinez also suffers from kidney issues and dementia. “At least I am able with my power as Governor to be a last recourse to allow him to live his final years with his niece in Pennsylvania.” 

‘Balloon boy’ parents granted pardon

Fredric Dryer, William Goble and Frederick Harris also received commutations from Polis on Wednesday. Dryer was originally sentenced to 138 years in prison for his participation in a Ponzi scheme but was re-sentenced in 2015 to serve 84 years.

“You received one of the longest sentences for a white collar crime in the history of the state,” Polis said in his commutation letter to Dryer. “As you wrote to me in your clemency application, you have taken responsibility for your actions and recognized the pain and harm you caused the victims of your crimes.”

Goble and Harris were both convicted under the habitual offenders act for nonviolent drug offenses. Both were sentenced to 96 years in prison. In his commutation letters, Polis said that if the men were convicted today, their maximum sentence would be between 24 and 32 years because of changes to Colorado’s mandatory sentencing laws.

Polis issued pardons to Adrian Acosta, Jane Brueckner, John Buehler, Darrel Carson, Thomas Crawford, Kevin Fox, Mayumi Heene, Richard Heene, Chad Larsen, Carlos Luna-Cano, Wayne Nguyen, Michael Nielsen, Timothy Ortiz, Esther Perez, Jeffrey Sempek, Beth Stone, Tracy Tomky and Lisa White. 

Mayumi Heene and Richard Heene were arrested in 2009 after reporting that their 6-year-old son Falcon had floated away on a balloon, which sparked a multi-agency search that drew international attention. The couple served jail time and were required to pay thousands of dollars in fines.

“Richard and Mayumi have paid the price in the eyes of the public, served their sentences, and it’s time for all of us to move on,” Polis said in a statement. “It’s time to no longer let a permanent criminal record from the balloon boy saga follow and drag down the parents for the rest of their lives.”

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