TOPEKA — Gov. Sam Brownback issued the first pardon in nearly seven years as Kansas governor Tuesday for benefit of a Colorado man convicted of insurance fraud.
Brownback, who expects to resign soon to begin work in the administration of President Donald Trump, declined 72 applications for clemency. Since the Republican was sworn in as governor during January 2011, Brownback has rejected all but one petition for executive action.
The exception is Mark Schmitt, a native of Liberal convicted of making a false insurance claim for $1,551 while attending college in Ottawa. In 1994, he was convicted of felony theft. He completed his sentence, paid restitution and had his criminal record expunged in Franklin County District Court.
“This request for clemency was unanimously supported at all levels of the process,” Brownback said in a statement. “He has demonstrated he is a man of character, having already paid his debt to society, having had his criminal record expunged and having worked through the process of requesting a pardon.”
Schmitt said in response to a request for comment that he appreciated the governor’s sense of mercy.
“I am very grateful to Gov. Brownback and his administration,” Schmitt said. “I would like to live my life privately and not be a media show.”
In a 2014 story published by the Parker Chronicle, Schmitt said he ran for a seat on the Parker council, a community southeast of Denver, to improve the town’s quality of life. He finished fifth in an eight-candidate race for three vacancies on the council.
The question-and-answer article allowed Schmitt to tell voters about himself.
“I have been a homeowner in Colorado since 1996,” said Schmitt, who has worked in the communications industry. “My three boys and I enjoy spending time at school, church and athletic activities. When able, we go to the mountains and enjoy camping, fishing and other outdoor activities.”
While Brownback has responded affirmatively to one plea for a pardon, the governor has asked Trump to pardon two Kansas men convicted of federal firearms violations. He sent the letter in February on behalf of Shane Cox and Jeremy Kettler, who were placed on probation for infractions involving firearm suppressors.
So far, Trump has pardoned one person — former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. President Barack Obama pardoned 212 people and granted clemency to 1,715 before leaving office in January.
On Twitter, the governor’s office had referred to Brownback’s decision to sign the pardon for Schmitt as “unprecedented by a Republican governor in recent Kansas political memory.” The action on behalf of Schmitt was recommended by the state’s Prisoner Review Board
The previous Kansas governor, Democrat Mark Parkinson, pardoned four people while completing the second term of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. She pardoned one person before resigning to become a Cabinet secretary in the Obama administration.
Brownback decided to endorse rejection of pardon requests for 72 people. The list of people with ties to Shawnee County who failed to earn a pardon included Glenn Heath Jr., who was convicted of first-degree murder in the 1995 beating death of a 2-year-old boy in Topeka.
In addition, Brownback set aside a request from Topekan Ariezanna Williams, who was sentenced to 23 years in prison in 2010. She was the driver of a vehicle involved in a Thanksgiving Day police chase that crashed and killed a passenger in her vehicle.