Virginia Gov. Mills E. Dodwin today pardoned three anti-Vietnam War protesters who have been jailed for the last 60 days for their role in a 1970 demonstration at a small Shenandoah Valley college.
Saying that "no further good" would come from continued imprisonment of the men Godwin ordered them released immediately from jails where they have been serving on work-release programs since mid-September.
As he announced the pardon Godwin called the men-two or whom are from the Washington area - "useful and respected citizens."
But the governor said he agreed with a state judge who told him earlier this year they would have to serve some time in jail in order to uphold the integrity of their trial and Virginia's jury-sentencing procedure.
"The time they have already served suffices to vindicate the judical process," Godwin said at a news conference.
"It's fantastic," one of the defendants Jay G. Rainey, shouted several hours later in a telephone interview from his restored pre-Civil War log cabin near the tiny community of Coots Store north of Harrisonburg. To celebrate, Rainey 31, was heading to the local country club to attend a dance with his wife that he had helped plan on a jail work-release program. But ha had thought he would never attend because he had to spend the night in a cell at the Rockingham County jail.
"I'm grinning from ear to ear," said Stephen B. Rochellee, 29, of Fairfax who managed to keep his computer job in Rockville by spending his nights in the Arlington jail. James W. McClung, 36, of Washington, who had to take a leave of absence from his job at the Library of Congress when he entered the Harrisonburg jail, could not be reached for comment.
AAll three men were bitter in September when they were forced to begin serving the sentences for their part in an antiwar sit-in demonstration at the Madison College Administration Building in Harrisonburg. Rainey and Rochelle were student at the time and McClung was an assistant professor of English.
The three men pardoned today had asked for jury trials and all received jail sentences and fines much stiffer than those imposed by the judge. Rainey and Rockhelle were each fined $500 and were given six-month sentences. McClung was fined $1,000 and given a nine-month jail sentence. After their conviction, American Civil Liberties Union lawyers fought the ruling in both state and federal courts and lost their appeal in September.
Since their imprisonment, friends and supporters from Harrisonburg and elsewhere have flodded the governor's office with letters, petitions and request that Godwin commute the sentences.
Godwin said he was powerless to commute jail sentences, but agreed to pardon the men if they would pay their fines.
Since his imprisonment, Rainey has had to have hiis wife pick him up at the jail each morning and drive him to his factory job 30 miles north of Harrisonburg where he was a middle management executive. Until his jail sentence became a reality, the company had planned to make him the industrial relations manager of the plant.
Today as he "yelled and screamed" over his pardon in the company's executive offices, company officials sought to quiet him and congratulate him. Then they gave him the promotion.