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San Luis Obispo woman with felony conviction receives pardon after years of self-improvement

Posted at 6:10 PM, Aug 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-09 22:43:34-04

A San Luis Obispo woman is celebrating a clean slate after Gov. Gavin Newsom pardoned her felony conviction this week.

"My life has just changed overnight," Laurie Gardner said.

The phone call Gardner received Wednesday morning transformed her world.

"I almost jumped out of the chair and I was bawling crying," Garnder said. "I told the lady, if I could reach through the phone and hug you, I totally would."

The voice on the other line was calling from the governor's office with news that Gardner was one of seven people in the state to receive a pardon.

"When I got that phone call that my pardon was granted and I could move on with my life, you have no idea how good that felt," Gardner said.

She previously appealed to former Gov. Jerry Brown for a pardon but never heard back. She recently reapplied for a pardon under Gov. Newsom.

Gardner's newfound sense of relief is 15 years in the making.

"I was a corrections officer and I lost my career," Gardner said.

She was convicted in 2004 of possessing a controlled substance for sale. She completed probation after four years, but the felony charge remained a permanent stain on her record.

"I couldn't get hired anywhere, when you're a convicted felon," Garnder said. "It made me feel like such a bad person."

Gardner didn't give up. She earned a degree from Cal Poly, volunteers, has maintained employment, and works hard at being a good mother.

"We're super close, always have been," Gardner's son, Demetrius Wallman, said. "She's one of the hardest people I've ever known."

Wallman is proud of his mother's success but until Friday, he didn't truly understand just how far she'd come because Gardner never shared the details of her criminal past.

"I didn't want him to look at his mother differently," Gardner said.

Friday morning, before sitting down for an interview, Gardner shared her story with her son.

"He gave me a high five and told me he loved me and was proud of me," Gardner said.

"It was the first time she really opened up about it. It was a lot to take in because she's definitely a role model to me," Wallman said. "This is the start for her to get started with a new beginning."

Gardner said she has aspirations of working in a government position within the City of San Luis Obispo and has already begun filling out applications.