Champaign Co. (ECWd) -
"I know that the change in my life is due to my commitment to logic and truth and I refuse to forget it"
Commitment to logic and truth?
Logic would indicate when a convicted heroin dealer seeks a pardon of his felony conviction the law would be followed. Not the case with Aaron Ammons, pardoned drug felon who is currently seeking election to the Champaign County Clerk's office.
Who is Aaron Ammons?
Aaron Ammons was first arrested and charged with two felony counts; possession of a controlled substance, aggravated battery/intimidation of a witness in 1992.
In 1993 he was arrested and charged with felony possession of a controlled substance, then in 1994, arrested and charged with the felony delivery of cannabis and resisting a peace officer. Of the 4 separate cases, he faced a jury trial on his first 1992 charge and was found not guilty. The other charges were dismissed.
In a 1993 felony arrest, he was convicted of felony heroin possession with intent to distribute. He recieved probation which he violated in 1995 and was again sentenced to probation, this time for 24 months.
January 2, 2015, Ammons filed his petition for a pardon from then Governor Quinn with the Illinois Prison Review Board. The law that covers that process can be found at this link. As previously reported by the News-Gazette, Ammons pardon was unlike others and politics played a key role.
A request for records from Governor Rauner's office turned up empty, which is very strange as one would think the very records involved in pardoning a convicted heroin dealer would be readily available. Did Quinn take those records with him?
A request to the Illinois Prison Review Board (PRB) resulted in 84 pages of documents including the pardon which also included an exclusion for possession of a firearm. I found that odd as the application was marked requesting full reinstatement of rights to include possession of a firearm, of which Quinn did not honor.
Additionally, he indicated on his petition a request for a hearing yet that never happened thanks to politics.
Reading the entire application submitted, there were some very interesting statements by Ammons either directly to the PRB, or quotes from publications he submitted in support of his pardon.
"On 5-14-97 I was unsuccessfully discharged from probation. I did pay all fines and went through drug treatment, however, I did not complete all of the tasks stipulated in the agreement."
So even though he failed to complete all the tasks stipulated in the agreement, he was discharged from probation.....and later given a pardon.
"I learned that integrity is my capital"
"My employment with the University of Illinois has opened my eyes to the real value of having dignity and integrity. "
What determines the real meaning of integrity? Most would agree following the law would be an instrumental foundation of integrity. Ammons did not do that, yet he is now pardoned and getting a free education due to his employment at the University of Illinois according to his statement in his petition to the PRB.
"One of the benefits of working at the University of Illinois is that I am allowed to take classes for free."
The rules applying to a pardon outline the petition for pardon must be provided 75 days prior to a public hearing on the petition. Ammons submitted his application 10 days prior to the last possible day Governor Quinn could issue a pardon. If integrity is a man's capital, where was the integrity in not following the rules in seeking a pardon?
Ammons initially failed to notify the State's Attorney and his sentencing judge or Chief Judge of the circuit he was convicted in that he was requesting a pardon from Governor Quinn. When he corrected that error, he failed to provide confirmation to the PRB as required. Ammons failure resulted in his petition being removed from the hearing docket as it was deficient.........yet he was pardoned by Governor Quinn.
The hearing that Ammons marked "yes" for on his petition never happened. Those hearings are designed for all interested parties to be able to be heard on why the person should or should not be granted a pardon. From those hearings, a recommendation is made to the Governor. In this case, all the key procedural requirements followed by others were ignored by Ammons.......yet he was pardoned by Governor Quinn.
Dignity and Integrity?
His wife, current State Representative Carol Ammons, "was challenged before the March 2014 Democratic primary for falsely claiming to have a college degree. It turned out the degree was from an overseas diploma mill. Carol Ammons also made news years ago when she for ran for, and was elected to, the Urbana school board even though she was not a legal resident of the school district. The board ultimately denied her a seat." (Quoted from the News- Gazette)
Why raise the issues with his wife, a current State Representative?
"My family sits upon the foundation of truth, love, dignity and integrity that Carol and I both decided to stand upon and we are teaching our children to do the same." (quoted from Ammons' pardon petition)
So how do we as a society cross a claim of living on a foundation of love, dignity, and integrity when those claiming to stand on those principals appear to have ignored what many would see as one of the most important; integrity. Does a person standing on a foundation of integrity ignore the rules to obtain a pardon? In this case, the ends justified the means, and when we allow that to happen, any claim of integrity is selective at best.
I have always defined integrity as doing the right thing when no one is watching.
Ammons provides the following community ties and personal accomplishments in support of his application for a pardon.
- President of Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
- "The same principles that led me to positions of influence in the workforce and in my union, also led me to start two social justice organizations with political arms as well."
- Co-founded Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice
- Founded Citizens with Conviction
- NAACP of Champaign County
- National Council of African-American Men
- North End Breakfast Club (President)
- Don Moyer Boys & Girls Club
- Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (honorary member)
- Church of the Living God
- WEFT Radio Station
- Urban Community and Police Partnership
- Citizens Advisory Commission on Jury Selection (Chair)
- Board Member of the Black Scholar Journal
Where is the Social Justice in jumping in front of approximately 1800 other Illinoisans who followed the proper and legal process?
With a wife who had Governor Quinn show up for her campaign fundraising, and a Mayor urging Governor Quinn for the pardon, the pattern points to the ongoing problem we face in Illinois, laws don't matter if you're politically connected.
In the case of Ammons' pardon, it is crystal clear this was not a pardon issued based on facts presented in a hearing as all the others were required to go through, but rather a pardon that was ripe with political ties.
Where is the integrity in that process, Mr. Ammons?
The News-Gazette did a great job first exposing this matter and our goal is to provide the follow-up to include all the documents that at the time of their publication were mysteriously unavailable.
You can review all of Ammons petition papers by downloading at this link or view below.