Pardons Board releases Douglas drug convict

More out of frustration with the system than anything else, the state's Pardons Board on Thursday granted a full pardon to a man who has served nearly 19 years for selling two grams of cocaine.

Charles Self, 54, was originally sentenced to life with parole in 1983 by a Douglas County judge. Since then, he has been paroled six different times. But Public Defender Steve McGuire said he has always been bounced back to prison after testing "dirty."

More importantly, McGuire argued, sentencing laws have changed dramatically since then. The same crime today would get a sentence of only two to 10 years.

"He has served almost twice that," McGuire said.

McGuire said Self has no history of violence, he can make a living outside prison and can get along in society.

"His trouble is, basically, he relapses when he's on the street," he said.

McGuire was making the unusual request to grant Self a pardon because, otherwise, he'll never get permanently out of prison.

Chief Justice Maupin described the case as "a very interesting dilemma."

He said the prison system has given him every chance but he has failed to stay drug-free. At the same time, he said Self has served far more time than he would if sentenced for the same crime today.

McGuire said he wasn't justifying Self's drug use but argued there has to be a limit to the total amount of time he should serve for selling two grams of cocaine.

"He has served his time," he told the board consisting of the governor, attorney general and members of the Supreme Court.

Members of the court granted Self his freedom in the form of a full pardon.

But Gov. Kenny Guinn warned Self to try stay out of legal trouble.

"You should be ever mindful you would not want to come before this board again," he said.

In the meantime, since the decision also restores Self's constitutional right to vote, Guinn can probably expect his support in November.

The board, howerver, had the opposite answer for George Quintana's application for access to parole.

He too was convicted of drug trafficking -- in Elko -- and has served more than eight years on that and one count of statutory sexual seduction involving a 15-year-old girl.

Justices pointed out that where Self was involved in selling two grams of cocaine, Quintana was involved in the sale of hundreds of pills, 239 grams of marijuana and 45 grams of cocaine.

They advised him to seek parole when eligible in 2007.


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