After waiting seven years for a pardon, Robert Pinney got one Friday from Gov. Pat Quinn.
The 37-year-old from downstate Monmouth said he made a stupid mistake when he was 19 and attending Western Illinois University.
Records show a state policeman pulled Pinney over for not wearing a seat belt, searched his car and found a stolen unloaded handgun. Pinney was convicted of theft of the gun.
Pinney applied for a pardon under then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who let a backlog of clemency requests grow to more than 2,500 cases.
Quinn has been whittling away, and on Friday Pinney’s pardon was one of 42 the governor granted in cases ranging from cases of burglary and drugs crimes to battery. Quinn denied 102 bids for clemency.
“Awesome! Awesome!,” Pinney said in an interview. “I work with kids now. I want to keep doing that. It’s really fulfilling.”
Pinney praised Quinn for giving him a chance, saying he hopes now to get a master’s degree in psychology and help children and the elderly.
He said he would not have been able to even hope to land a such job without getting the pardon. He currently works on enrolling and testing at an alternative school for troubled children.
Quinn also approved the right for one person already pardoned by Gov. Jim Edgar in 1992 to now seek to seal his records in the courts.
Joseph Lentine was 20 years old when convicted of a 1984 Lake County drug and gun case in which he did not use the weapon, officials said.
The governor has acted on 2,068 clemency petitions since he took office in January 2009. He has granted 744 pardons, authorized another 17 people to seek expungements and denied 1,307 requests for clemency.