Owens pardons two men days before Christmas
December 23, 2005
DENVER – Gov. Bill Owens announced on Friday that he has pardoned two men – a 29-year-old federal prison official convicted of second-degree assault as a teenager and a 38-year-old man who said he needed the pardon to keep his business.On Thursday, Owens pardoned Bennie Salazar of Pueblo and Troy Gill of Aurora. A pardon restores all rights of citizenship, including the ability to vote, participate in jury duty, hold public office and own firearms, according to Owens’ office.In 1992, Salazar, then 16, stole several cartons of cigarettes from a Pueblo convenience store and was involved in an ensuing fight. He was sentenced to 90 days home detention.Since 2000, Salazar has been a correctional officer at the maximum security prison in Florence. He previously was a Marine and worked to keep young people away from drugs and gangs with the Youth Track Academy in Pueblo.Because of his conviction, though, Salazar has been turned down for a job with the Pueblo Sheriff’s Department and wasn’t allowed to buy a rifle as a Christmas present for his son, he wrote in his pardon request to Owens.”I was not always the model citizen growing up,” Salazar wrote. “I feel I have shown my wife, my family and my community that I am a changed man.”Gill was sentenced to probation in 1996 after stealing $680 in merchandise from a Target store in Greeley. He said Friday that when he committed the crime, he was dealing with a divorce and financial and medical problems and had begun drinking.”I did something really stupid,” Gill said. “I did it to make ends meet and I did it once.”Since then, I’ve picked myself up from my own boot straps.”He has opened an investigation firm that handles mostly insurance investigations. He told Owens he wouldn’t be allowed to do investigations for major insurance companies because of his felony conviction.Gill also said further illness has limited his employment opportunities.”It’ll help my business immensely,” he said. “I did it for myself, for my business.”Owens has granted just seven pardons in his seven years as governor. More than 200 pardon requests were made in 2005 to Colorado’s seven-member Clemency Board, which reviews the applications and makes recommendations to Owens.Owens was not available for comment, his spokesman, Dan Hopkins, said. A message left by The Associated Press for Salazar wasn’t immediately returned.