AURORA – Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper hasn't granted any pardons since being elected.
But one Aurora man hopes to have his record wiped clean after becoming a shining example of the system working.
A good meal is just like life: sweet, savory and sometimes complicated. For Wayne Thomas, head chef of his household, the best part of the meal is the company he gets to spend it with.
"My family drives me," Thomas said, "Dinner time, that's the time we talk about the day and stuff like that."
That includes asking his 5-year-old son Wayne about his day at school.
Family helped change Thomas' life. In 1997, Thomas was a drug-dealing, gun-toting 17-year-old busted for beating another teen with a gun.
"Just living that lifestyle, I had to protect myself. I was involved in some things I shouldn't have been involved in," Thomas said.
He got off track when he was a freshman in high school. He said his teachers predicted he was going nowhere fast.
Court documents show on March 12, 1997, Thomas kidnapped and assaulted a 15-year-old boy he didn't know. All Thomas knew was that the teen had told on Thomas' friend, and Thomas didn't like that.
"I was a violent person, yes," Thomas said. "I really don't know why I reacted the way I did. Just know it was out of stupidity and at that time in my life, I just felt that was the answer."
Even though Thomas was a minor at the time, Arapahoe County prosecutors went after him as an adult.
"I don't think I was still taking it serious at that time because I didn't think it was all that serious to be honest," Thomas said. "I knew it was bad, but I was like, 'I'm a kid, this will probably work out.'"
He was facing 16 to 48 years.
While Thomas said he didn't take anything from his victim, he pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery, a class-three felony. He was sentenced to five years in the Youthful Offender System.
"I am ashamed of what I did because it was just pure stupidity. It was pointless," Thomas said. "It wasn't my problem. I made it my problem, and it changed my life forever."
But Thomas decided he could change his life again.
"Where you start is not where you end," he said.
While in lock up, he finished high school.
After he got out of prison, he went to college and worked hard until he earned a doctorate in health sciences the day after getting off parole.
"Having the second chance in life basically told me, you know you need to do something right if you want to live a decent life I wanted to see if I could really overcome the odds," he said.
Thomas has a full-time job as a DME coordinator which provides durable medical equipment for post-surgical orthopedic patients.
His dream job is to be a trainer for the NFL.
But life with a felony conviction isn't easy. Thomas has been turned down for jobs at least a dozen times.
"Society is not so forgiving all the time when you make mistakes unless you're famous, which is pretty funny to me," Thomas said.
He's asking the state of Colorado for clemency - a pardon only a governor can give.
"It's the last step into getting back my identity," he said. "I rehabilitated myself. That's why I should get a pardon. Do I think that I'm special? No. I really don't think I'm special. I just feel like I did what I was supposed to do to make my life right."
Two hundred miles away, in Rawlins, Wyo., another man is reflecting on his life as well.
"I want to be able to change my life for the better," said Christopher Town.
Town is Thomas' victim from the 1997 assault.
Town says he's lost the right to call himself a "victim" since he's currently serving 75 years to life for killing his wife in 2013.
"I wish I could just change everything in the past," he said in an interview from prison.
He knows he can't change his, but he can help change Thomas' future. Getting the victim's opinion is a part of the clemency process.
"[Thomas is] an inspiration to me, and I'm in a lot of trouble myself. I want to be able to change my life for the better, [to] do what he's done."
The other challenge of getting a pardon: the office that prosecuted Thomas has to believe he's changed.
District Attorney for the 18th Judicial District George Brauchler wasn't the DA who prosecuted Thomas.
"I've been an attorney for coming up on 20 years now," he said. "I've never advocated for [clemency] either as a prosecutor or as a defense attorney. I've never seen it happen."
That's until Brauchler met Thomas.
"If we're going to have the power to pardon in the state of Colorado, isn't it for a guy like Wayne Thomas? Isn't that the guy that's the poster child for why we pardon people for past convictions. That's the way I feel. I hope the governor feels the same way," he said.
A spokesperson for the governor's office told 9NEWS that Governor John Hickenlooper hasn't granted any pardons since he's been elected.
According to the governor's office, the Executive Clemency Advisory Board reviews applications and makes recommendations to the governor.
In 2012, the board was dismissed and an executive order was issued which requires the creation of a new board with additional experts.
The governor's spokesperson said the new board is expected to be recruited later this year. The governor is not briefed on the cases until the new board can review applications and make recommendations.
A total of 153 applications have been received since 2011.
Former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter granted 42 pardons in four years. Bill Owens before him pardoned 13 people.
It's not clear how long Thomas will be waiting for an answer on his pardon application.
He's hopeful it would make his life easier, but he says he really wants the pardon for emotional reasons. He wants a clean slate.
"Just because the norm is getting out jail and going back to jail, doesn't mean you have to settle for that," Thomas said. "When you become an adult, you have to be an adult. You have to take accountability for your actions and I think when I figured out I have to take accountability for my actions. That's also another turning point where I knew that, I'm going to keep moving forward with my life."
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