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SU College of Law client receives presidential pardon 17 years after conviction

Renee Houape | Staff Photographer

The Criminal Defense Clinic worked to get a pardon for Lisa Jandro before former President Barack Obama left office.

Syracuse University College of Law recently secured a presidential pardon for a client of its Criminal Defense Clinic from former United States President Barack Obama, more than a decade after the client’s conviction.

Lisa Jandro, the client, received the presidential pardon on Jan. 17 along with 63 other applicants nationwide from then-President Obama.

Jandro was convicted in Hawaii on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering in 2000, and served 33 months in federal prison. Since then, she has been law-abiding and hardworking, giving her time to her community and various charitable causes, said Todd Berger, the clinic’s director.

“The case we presented was one of someone who had taken responsibility for her actions,” Berger said. “She had turned her life around.”

The Criminal Defense Clinic operates as a functioning defense office largely manned by SU law students under the supervision of Berger and Practitioner-in-Residence Jason Hoge, both former defense attorneys.

The clinic first learned of Jandro’s case from the Catholic Law School in Washington, D.C., something that might never have happened if not for the case of Tim Tyler.

Tyler, a man arrested in 1992 for selling LSD through the mail and at Grateful Dead concerts, spent more than 20 years in prison despite a record of mental illness and a lack of violent conduct. His case became a rallying point for opponents of federal drug laws, spurring a petition for Obama to grant him clemency that racked up more than 420,000 signatures on Change.org.

SU’s clinic approached Tyler in 2013 to inquire about securing him a pardon or commutation, but he had just signed with Catholic Law School.

Tyler had mentioned to his attorneys at Catholic Law School that SU was interested in taking his pardon case. When Lisa Jandro reached out to Catholic in the winter of 2013, Catholic referred her to Syracuse.

“I told (Berger) it was a great case,” Hoge, who had previously done re-entry work as a civil rights attorney, said. “It’s a half-court shot, but we’re the only ones who can throw that ball. Because the clinic isn’t a private law office and doesn’t have a financial stake, we have every incentive to do this. It’s a great opportunity for the students.”

After the clinic took Jandro’s case, Jaclyn Campbell and Rachel Morgese — both in the law class of 2014 — worked with Jandro to draw up the pardon application during their last semester of law school and submitted it in late spring 2014. Much of the extracurricular work for the clinic involved compiling character witnesses from various people in her life, Morgese said.

The pardon lifts automatic bars for various professional licenses and can be included on job applications along with former convictions. It also restores basic civil rights, like the right to vote.

“What makes re-entry work worth doing is that you encounter people who embody the word ‘redemption,’” Hoge said. “They rise from the ash like phoenixes. She was someone who had destroyed her life, and spent years clawing her way back.”

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