NEW HANOVER COUNTY — A man charged with drug and weapon offenses in New Hanover county 23 years ago was one of only four to receive a pardon from Gov. Roy Cooper this year.
Eric Colburn, 46, was convicted of discharging a firearm into occupied property and possessing and selling a schedule one controlled substance on June 7, 2001, with offense dates listed between March 5 and April 11 of 2000.
His sentence included 15 days in New Hanover County Jail and 36 months on probation.
Colburn, who was 23 at the time, is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps. According to his LinkedIn resume, he went on to attend the University of North Carolina Wilmington after his conviction and earned a bachelor’s degree in management information systems.
Colburn has spent his career in I.T. and finance, and volunteers with organizations that support veterans and children. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“Eric Lee Colburn’s record since these convictions has been one of responsible civic behavior and community service,” the order for his pardon reads.
“Ensuring fairness in our justice system through executive clemency is a responsibility I take seriously,” Cooper said in a statement. “We carefully consider research and recommendations made by the Juvenile Sentence Review Board to commute sentences for crimes committed by minors. All of these individuals are deserving of clemency and we will continue to work to protect our communities and improve the fairness of our justice system.”
The other pardons went to Stefany Lewis, 50; Cathy Grimes, 67; and Brenda French, 60. The commonality between all the pardons is recipients were convicted decades ago and went on to lead productive lives.
Sam Chan, Cooper’s press secretary, told Port City Daily the pardons consider the actions of recipients after a sentence and “reflect the State’s recognition that an individual is forgiven for a past crime and may relieve the recipient from collateral consequences of the past conviction.”
Two commutations were on the recommendations from the Juvenile Sentence Review Board, which Cooper created in 2021. The board considers cases for people who received prison sentences before turning 18. As of 2019, the general assembly outlawed charging minors as adults.
Cooper also commuted the sentences of six people in prison: Donnie Park, 37; Benjamin Williams, 44; Kolanda Wooten, 37; Joey Graham, 50; TiShekka Cain, 38; and Janet Danahey, 44.
Their convictions range from murder to drug trafficking.
A release from Cooper’s office notes all the recipients have stayed employed while incarcerated. Parker and Cain participated in work releases. Williams, Wooten and Danahey participated in educational programs as well.
“All the clemency applications were reviewed by the Office of Executive Clemency, the Office of the General Counsel and the Governor,” Chan explained in a statement. “The commutations and pardons issued yesterday followed an intensive review of cases, including the circumstances of the crimes, length of the sentences, records in prison, and readiness to reenter communities successfully after prison.”
The governor’s power to grant pardons, commutations and reprieves for any conviction is enshrined in the state constitution, with the exception of impeachment “upon such conditions as he may think proper.” The only limitation on the power of the governor to pardon is he must do so after a conviction, rather than during a trial.
People who believe themselves or someone they know are eligible for some form of clemency may apply via the Governor’s Clemency Office.
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