A CLOSER LOOK: AR governor plans to grant 16 pardons, 3 commutations; 26 clemencies denied

A Closer Look

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) announced his “intent to grant executive clemency” on Friday, June 4, 2021.

FAQ’s about the clemency process (Source: Arkansas Crime Information Center)

The governor granted “commutation of sentence” to three inmates. One is serving time for first-degree murder, kidnapping, aggravated robbery, and is listed as a habitual offender. Nathaniel Hughes Jr., was convicted in 1988 in Pulaski County to life, plus 240 months, “to serve in the Arkansas Department of Corrections (ADC)  to making him immediately parole-eligible,” according to the governor’s statement, “the prosecuting attorney has raised objections to the applicant’s request.” According to the ADC website, he is housed at the Ouachita River Unit in Malvern.

Nathaniel Hughes Jr. ADC photo.

The other two men, Bryon Hooper and Jessie L. Jackson, are serving time for drugs and aggravated robbery, respectively. Each is listed as a habitual offender. Law enforcement in both cases has no objections to the requests.

The list of 16 “intends to grant pardons”

Most of the people on this current list have been convicted of theft or drugs. These applicants have completed all jail time, fulfilled all parole and probationary requirements, and paid all sentence-related fines.

According to the statement, there is a 30-day waiting period to receive public feedback on the notices before final action is taken.

26 clemency requests denied, 20 are ADC inmates

  • Aaron, Mike, 60. 1988 rape. Life. Cummins Unit.
  • Galbert, Cedric. Sentenced in 1994/1996 for probation revocation. Released on 7/23/1996.
  • Johnson, Douglass. On probation for 18 months and discharged 6/2009.
  • Johnson, Jonathan B., 38. 2007 aggravated robbery. 28 years. Tucker Unit.
  • Leach, Howard, 56. 1997 forgery. 43 years. East AR Regional Max Unit. 
  • Lion/Jones, Deshotta Da S., 38. 2019 1st-degree domestic battery/habitual offender. 40 years. Grimes Unit.   
  • Lyons, Anthony C., 39. 2012 drugs. 27 years. Varner Unit.
  • Madewell, Erica, 43. 1999 1st-degree murder. 40 years. McPherson Unit.
  • Mitchael, Rodney, 42. 2006 breaking/entering/theft/rape. 95 years. MSU.           
  • Morgan, Marquel, 36. 2004 commercial burglary/theft/1st-degree murder/habitual. 80 years. East AR Region Unit.
  • Murray, Derek, 26. 2016 battery/sex assault. 12 years. N Central Unit.  
  • Norris, Kyle. 1/2018 convicted of a misdemeanor. Paid penalties including a $25 domestic violence fee.
  • Penn, Allen, 60. 1983 capital murder. LWOP. East AR Region Unit.   
  • Phillips, Gregory, 44. 2007 rape/hot check. 30 years. N Central Unit.              
  • Plunk, Terry, 68. 2007 drugs/habitual offender. 72 years. Cummins Unit.       
  • Rose, Crystal J., 26. 2020 battery/drugs/theft. 16 years. Wrightsville Women’s Facility.
  • Santiago, Jesus, 46. 2010 1st-degree murder/arson. 47 years. Cummins Unit.
  • Scruggs, Darnell. Not listed on ADC inmate website.
  • *Smith, Reginald, 51. 1991 1st-degree murder. Life. Tucker Unit. *There are 2 men with the same name. The 2nd man is 25. 2020 2nd-degree murder/firearm felony. 30 years. N Central Unit.
  • Stiers, Terry. 9/2000 sentenced to 36 months probation. Discharged 9/2003.
  • Suewell, Cordero. 1/2012 convicted of a misdemeanor. Paid penalties including a $25 domestic violence fee.
  • Taylor, Keaton, 21. 2018 1st-degree murder/aggravated robbery. 25 years. Varner Unit.
  • Webb, Robert L., 64. 1975 1st-degree murder. Life. Tucker Unit.
  • Williamson, Charles, 33. 2012 1st-degree murder/firearm felony. Life. Varner Unit.
  • Woelk, Christopher A., 39. 2010 rape. 30 years. Ouachita River Unit.
  • Woods, Sr., John A. 47. 2013 rape/theft. 40 years. Varner Unit.

HOPING FOR CLEMENCY by 9/3/2021 — ROLF KAESTEL

Rolf Kaestel, 70, hopes Gov. Hutchinson will grant his clemency request — something that has been denied several times.

For 40 years, Rolf Kaestel has been in prison with half of his time spent in a Utah prison on an Arkansas Interstate Compact. KNWA/FOX24 was not given an answer when asked about the decision to move him from Arkansas to Utah, but it happened in 1999.

In 1981, Kaestel was convicted of aggravated robbery and sentenced to life in prison, and fined $15,000, in Arkansas. He was found guilty of robbing a Fort Smith taco shop of $264 with a toy water gun.

There are several people who would like to see Kaestel released from prison. One person is Arkansas State Representative Vivian Flowers (D) who said he has served his time, “and it’s rare when you find the victim of the crime and the prosecuting attorney supporting his release.”

Rolf Kaestel prison photo.

Arkansas filmmaker/investigative journalist Kelly Duda, who directed and produced the feature-length film “Factor 8: The Arkansas Prison Blood Scandal,” is in favor of Kaestel’s release. “He’s been an exemplary prisoner, the victim fiercely advocates for his release, and the ADC supports his clemency. So, we remain hopeful as we await the governor’s decision.”

Gov. Hutchinson has shown that he believes in second chances and he should be applauded for his recent commutations. 

By law, the governor has until September to decide but he can choose to do so anytime before then.

Filmmaker Kelly Duda

The governor’s office allows the public 30 days to weigh in on his intentions. “That means if he were to grant clemency [to Rolf], he would need to decide by August at the latest,” said Duda.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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