Liberty man has mixed feelings over pardon

OGDEN, Utah (AP) — A Utah man has mixed feelings over being granted a pardon by President Barack Obama for a 1972 federal conviction for felony possession of government property. While he’s pleased to have his criminal record wiped clean, James Banks of Liberty said he’s worried how friends and business associates will view the pardon issued Friday. Banks told the Standard-Examiner of Ogden that he has kept the matter secret from friends and customers who employ him privately to manage their water systems, and he fears publicity about the pardon could jeopardize his job. “People don’t look at it as a pardoned person,” he said. “They see a convicted felon.” Banks, 66, a member of the Ogden Valley Planning Commission, said his conviction stemmed from a 1972 incident while he was 27 and employed as a maintenance mechanic at Hill Air Force Base. He admitted putting some plywood and nails into his vehicle and driving off the base. He was arrested just outside the gate by the FBI. Banks lost two days pay, and was sentenced to two years of probation. But he kept his job at Hill, where he worked for 29 years. The items taken by Banks were valued at less than $100, said Melodie Rydalch, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Salt Lake City. Banks initially thought the conviction would result in only a minor blemish on his record, but was surprised to learn a decade ago that it prevented him from buying a handgun. About five years ago Banks hired Ogden attorney Frank S. Warner to apply for a presidential pardon. Warner described Banks’ pardon as a “mixed blessing,” noting that while his criminal record is now clear, it comes with the notoriety that he was a convicted felon in the first place. Banks’ case was carefully reviewed by the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department before being recommended to Obama for a pardon, Warner said. “It is gratifying because it doesn’t happen every day,” he told the Standard-Examiner. Banks was among nine people who received the first pardons of Obama’s presidency.

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