FOLSOM (CBS13) – It’s the surprise gift of Christmas clemency as the governor granted surprise pardons to 79 ex-convicts.

Ken Benedict is one of those freshly pardoned, a man who’s spent most of his adult life trying to right the wrongs of his past.

Gov. Jerry Brown granted the Christmas Eve pardons to people who have stayed out of trouble and have given back to their community. For some, this was the last step on their road to redemption.

“I was young, just out of high school,” Benedict said.

Benedict says he was dumb and hanging around some bad people 20 years ago.

“They were involved in things they shouldn’t have been, manufacturing methamphetamines,” he said.

Getting involved, Benedict was busted in a police sting and sentenced to five years in prison.

He joined an inmate fire crew, not knowing he was about to have an experience that would change his life forever. At the 1993 Malibu fires, he saved a young boy’s life.

“I just remember, I told that lady I’d save her son, and how could I live with myself if I didn’t try,” said Benedict.

Reader’s Digest even featured his second chance story. Benedict was paroled from prison after two years and spent the last two decades waiting for this, a pardon from the governor years after he first asked. The state that locked him up officially forgave him for his crimes.

“Christmas Eve, to find this out, what a gift, to finally have some closure to a long story,” said Benedict. “I did something dumb when I was younger.”

Now, he is older, wiser, and engaged. He volunteers at area schools and competes in body building events with his fiancée.

“He’s such an excellent role model for me, and I love him for that,” fiancée Tiffany Norvella said.

Both are celebrating the Christmas pardon, a priceless acknowledgment not of the man he was, but the one he’s become.

“It’s not the end of continuing to do what’s right, and to give back, and continuing to live your life in a positive manner,” he said.

Interestingly, Benedict didn’t even know about the pardon until CBS13 called him to ask about doing a story. The governor’s office says it will officially notify the 79 people who were pardoned in the coming weeks.

With the pardon, Benedict can now own a fire arm and apply for certain state jobs he was banned from before.


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