SADO Paralegal Frank Rodriguez is Pardoned!

SADO is thrilled to announce that on December 22, 2022, Governor Gretchen Whitmer granted a full pardon to SADO Paralegal Frank Rodriguez. In November 1996, and after spending 3 ½ years in jail, Frank was convicted of conspiracy to deliver over 650 grams of cocaine, possession with intent to deliver between 50-225 grams of cocaine, and two counts of delivery of less than 50 grams of cocaine; in December 1997, Frank was sentenced to life in prison. In September 2010 and after nearly 17 ½ years of incarceration, Governor Jennifer M. Granholm commuted Frank’s sentences. Frank has worked at SADO since he came home in January 2011.

In response to the news of Frank's pardon, SADO Director Jonathan Sacks stated: “Everything Frank does at SADO, from keeping us functioning during the early days of the pandemic to collecting evidence to help exonerate our innocent clients, inspires us to be better people, and he is the embodiment of why the pardon power matters. We are so grateful that Governor Whitmer saw what we have seen in Frank as our colleague of over ten years and granted his application.”

The Governor’s authority to grant pardons derives from § 14, Art. 5 of the Michigan Constitution of 1963. According to the Michigan Department of Corrections website, “the effect of a pardon by the Governor is such that it releases the punishment and blots out of existence the guilt, so that in the eye of the law the offender is as innocent as if he had never committed the offense.” The website also explains that pardons are an “extraordinary form of relief for someone convicted of a crime and [are] extremely rare.”

The Michigan Parole Board recommended that Frank be pardoned after reviewing his application and hearing compelling testimony at a November 2022 hearing, attended by over 70 people – many of whom spoke on Frank’s behalf and none of whom objected to his application. At the hearing, Frank talked about his life: from being a “dumb kid” at the time of his arrest, to teaching himself to read and write, working as a paralegal with Prison Legal Services of Michigan, Inc., and helping SADO with its Clemency and Commutation Project, all while he was still in prison. For more information about Frank’s journey, readers may want to review this article from December 2014.

Since coming home, Frank has been an invaluable team member at SADO, and to the community at large. In 2015, Frank authored the Defender Guide to Michigan’s Commutation Process for SADO’s Criminal Defense Resource Center – he will author an update in 2023 – and he routinely helps returning citizens get their footing after they leave prison. In 2021, Frank was one of the two winners of SADO’s inaugural Staff Award, in recognition of his help to keep the SADO Detroit and Lansing offices running smoothly during the pandemic. In December 2021, Frank was instrumental in helping to save the lives of four children after the car they were in veered off the road and caught fire. For his actions, he was awarded the Medal of Valor from the Lansing Police Department. In short, Frank is a model for all of us and is richly deserving of his pardon. Frank’s stepdaughter Sophia best summarized this at the hearing, when she told the Parole Board, “Good people like my dad impact others.” Frank sure has. Congratulations, Frank!