Lynn Marie Stanek says she has changed her life since her crime

A Tualatin woman convicted 25 years ago for using a communication facility to distribute cocaine was among 17 people pardoned this month by President Obama.

Lynn Marie Stanek said she was surprised when she heard about the pardon on Friday, March 1.

“As you might imagine, I was stunned when I received a call from Kathleen Hatton from the Office of the Pardon Attorney informing me that President Obama had signed my petition for pardon,” Stanek said.

Stanek, 53, was 26 when she was convicted of her crime. She first applied for a presidential pardon in 1998, during the Clinton administration.

Since her arrest and conviction, Stanek has accomplished personal milestones that demonstrate a well-adjusted life, which is a significant consideration in the pardon process. According to the Office of the Pardon Attorney, the branch of the U.S. Department of Justice that handles clemency requests, a pardon is “an expression of the president’s forgiveness” and is the highest level of recognition for a citizen’s good conduct and acceptance of responsibility for a crime.

“In the 25 years between my conviction and my pardon, I have obtained a master's degree, been married, had a child, gotten divorced, had a couple of different careers and started a small business,” Stanek said.

The Tualatin resident owns Ambience Staging Designs, a consulting service specializing in the interior décor of homes that have been put on the market and are being shown to real estate agents and prospective buyers.

“Despite my accomplishments, I have carried the stigma of ‘convicted felon’ with me,” Stanek said. “I am better than my past — regardless if that ‘past’ is a decade ago, or a day ago. This pardon, to me personally, is validation of that.”

A presidential pardon can restore a convict’s right to vote and to legally acquire a firearm, as well as her ability to hold public office and serve on a jury. A pardon is “not a sign of vindication and does not connote or establish innocence,” according to the Office of the Pardon Attorney.

“This pardon does not absolve me of my crime, but it does allow me to move beyond my past in a tangible, legal and personally meaningful way,” Stanek said.

Pardon recipients must still disclose the conviction on official forms, although they are allowed to specify that they were pardoned.

The pardon process is often vague, with petitioners generally unable to find out why their applications are approved or denied. As in Stanek’s case, those who receive pardons often find the decision issued by a different president than the one to which they originally applied.

There is no appeals process, but rejected applicants are allowed to re-apply for a pardon after a two-year waiting period.

Obama has granted 39 of 1,333 pardon requests.

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