Boxer hopes for clemency

Post Tribune (Sunday) - - Front Page - By Becky Ja­cobs

Charles “Duke Got Next” Tan­ner has a bunch of rea­sons why he’s hop­ing he gets clemency this month, but one of his driv­ing forces is his son.

“What would be a greater gift than to give my­self and to be in his pres­ence phys­i­cally? That’s the great­est gift I could give in his life­time,” Tan­ner said.

The for­mer Gary boxer’s clemency re­quest is pend­ing with the Depart­ment of Jus­tice. Tan­ner and his sup­port­ers are hope­ful his will be in­cluded in any re­quests Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump may grant dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son.

“That would mean ev­ery­thing to me. It would be a great Christ­mas present,” said Charles Tan­ner III, Tan­ner’s 16-year-old son.

Tan­ner, 38, is set to be re­leased in 2030, ac­cord­ing to the Bureau of Pris­ons, after he had his dou­ble life sen­tence re­duced.

When he was ar­rested, Tan­ner was an un­de­feated light heavy­weight boxer from Gary who had been in a tele­vised fight on ESPN.

Tan­ner was ac­cused of lead­ing the Rene­gades, a lo­cal gang that traf­ficked thou­sands of pounds of crack co­caine and mar­i­juana, and was con­victed in 2006 of con­spir­acy to dis­trib­ute.

Tan­ner ad­mits his crimes and un­der­stands he broke the law. But he said he feels he’s learned from those mis­takes, worked to bet­ter him­self and is ready to re­turn to so­ci­ety to help peo­ple in his com­mu­nity.

Tan­ner tried for clemency dur­ing Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, but that re­quest was de­nied.

This time, he’s seek­ing a com­mu­ta­tion of his sen­tence, which could po­ten­tially lead to his re­lease or re­duc­tion in sen­tence but would not clear his con­vic­tion or im­ply in­no­cence, ac­cord­ing to the DOJ.

Amy Ral­ston Po­vah, founder of CAN-DO, said she sees a chance of clemency for Tan­ner.

“Tan­ner is cer­tainly a strong con­tender,” she said.

While Ral­ston Po­vah has worked with other in­mates across the coun­try in their clemency ef­forts, she said, “It was kind of hard to ig­nore Charles’ case be­cause it’s so com­pelling.”

CAN-DO, or Clemency for All Non-vi­o­lent Drug Of­fend­ers, pri­or­i­tizes cases of women who re­ceived lengthy drug sen­tences based on con­spir­acy laws, those with life or long sen­tences for mar­i­juana and first-time of­fend­ers.

Ral­ston Po­vah cre­ated the non­profit after her own clemency re­quest was granted dur­ing Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton’s ad­min­is­tra­tion. She served nine years of a 24-year prison sen­tence on con­spir­acy drug charges.

Ral­ston Po­vah said that Tan­ner “is al­most a poster child for some­one who de­serves a sec­ond chance.”

“It’s just one that touches your heart,” she said.

Tan­ner is a first-time of­fender with a non­vi­o­lent of­fense. Since he’s been in prison, he’s taken classes and worked to im­prove him­self, ac­cord­ing to CAN-DO.

Tan­ner and Ral­ston Po­vah said they’re en­cour­aged by Trump’s dis­cus­sion about crim­i­nal jus­tice re­form. This month, the leg­is­la­ture passed a bi­par­ti­san crim­i­nal jus­tice re­form bill. Trump granted clemency to Alice Marie John­son, who was serv­ing a life sen­tence for a non­vi­o­lent drug of­fense, and also gave a par­don to heavy weight box­ing champion Jack John­son, who died in 1946.

As of De­cem­ber, Trump had re­ceived 825 pe­ti­tions for par­dons and 4,183 pe­ti­tions for com­mu­ta­tions dur­ing his time in of­fice, ac­cord­ing to the DOJ. Trump has granted seven par­dons and four com­mu­ta­tions, and he’s de­nied 82 par­dons and 98 com­mu­ta­tions, the DOJ shows.

When Tan­ner was sen­tenced, fed­eral sen­tenc­ing guide­lines were harsher for crack co­caine than for other drugs, which con­trib­uted to his ini­tial life sen­tence. Since then, the U.S. Sen­tenc­ing Com­mis­sion changed the amounts of crack co­caine needed for cer­tain terms, and the change was ap­plied retroac­tively to Tan­ner.

“I be­lieve, if Don­ald Trump read my case and my pe­ti­tion, he will let me go,” Tan­ner said.

Tan­ner III was 2 years old when his fa­ther went to prison, but he said they “are still close even though he’s in jail.”

“He still plays a big role even though he’s not here,” Tan­ner III said.

Tan­ner III said his fa­ther tries to guide and teach his son to “not make the mis­takes that he did.”

Tan­ner is housed in a low-se­cu­rity fed­eral cor­rec­tional in­sti­tu­tion in Al­len­wood, Pa., but he re­peat­edly say she’ s blessed and gives credit to his faith.

Tan­ner knows his fam- ily and friends have suf­fered with him through the de­ci­sions he made, but they also “showed in­fi­nite pa­tience with me through this whole sit­u­a­tion,” he said.

“It taught me about bless­ing, about what un­con­di­tional love was,” he said.

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wil­son said she sup­ports Tan­ner in his clemency re­quest.

“I think he can cer­tainly send a very strong mes­sage. He is re­morse­ful. He has ac­knowl­edged his be­hav­ior. And that it was not con­sis­tent with who all of us be­lieved him to be when he was box­ing,” Free­manWil­son said.

If re­leased, Tan­ner has plans to help and share his story with younger gen­er­a­tions, in­clud­ing in the Gary com­mu­nity, he said.

“Who bet­ter to give that mes­sage to young peo­ple than to say, here is some­one who has lit­er­ally worked to, one, re­ha­bil­i­tate them­selves, ac­knowl­edge their wrong­do­ing and who now wants you to keep on a path of life to keep them off the path of crime,” Freeman-Wil­son said.

State Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, said he also sup­ports Tan­ner’s ef­forts.

“He ad­vo­cates that his men­tor­ship would thrive as a pos­i­tive in­flu­ence for kids and the com­mu­nity out­side of com­plet­ing his box­ing ca­reer. He is de­ter­mined to de­ter oth­ers from go­ing down the same path he pre­vi­ously chose in his youth,” Melton said.

TROY BLY PHO­TOS

Charles “Duke Got Next” Tan­ner, right, hopes his clemency re­quest is granted this month in large part for his son, Charles Tan­ner III, left.

Tan­ner, a for­mer Gary boxer, hopes Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump will grant his clemency re­quest over the hol­i­days.

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