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October 21, 2020

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Trump pardons Las Vegan Jon Ponder, a convicted felon turned activist

Republican National Convention Watch Party

Steve Marcus

Las Vegan Jon D. Ponder, left, founder and CEO of Hope for Prisoners, is shown on the screen during a Republican National Convention watch party at the Black Voices Community Center, a Trump Victory field office, on North Decatur Boulevard Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020. Ponder was granted a pardon by President Trump for his work to reintegrate formerly incarcerated people back into society. At right is Richard Beasley, a retired FBI agent who arrested Ponder for bank robbery in 2004.

Updated Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020 | 2:33 a.m.

Jon Ponder, the founder of the Hope for Prisoners reentry program for offenders in Las Vegas, was awarded a full pardon by President Donald Trump in a presentation broadcast during the Republican National Convention on Tuesday.

In a recorded video, Ponder appeared in the White House alongside Trump and Richard Beasley, the now-retired FBI agent who busted him for a string of bank robberies some 15 years ago and who is now one of his best friends.

After remarks, Trump called Ponder’s wife, Jamie, and surprised the three-time convicted felon by signing an Executive Grant of Clemency.

“You have done incredible work,” Trump told Ponder. “And all of Las Vegas, and all of Nevada, and all of every place in this country is very proud of you.”

Ponder told his story of redemption. Facing more than 20 years in federal prison after being convicted, he said he asked God for a second chance.

He was incredulous when a judge reduced his sentence. Sitting in a cell, Ponder said God spoke to him, and from that day he realized his life had changed, and he vowed to keep his promise to serve others. 

Out of prison five years later, Ponder contacted Beasley, the FBI agent who bought him coffee and a doughnut before hauling him off to jail. They met for lunch and Ponder explained to him Hope for Prisoners, a program that helps offenders get back on their feet when they’re set free. 

Two years ago, Trump invited Ponder to the Rose Garden, where the president highlighted Ponder’s achievements nationally for the first time. 

Earlier this year, Ponder invited Trump to Metro Police headquarters for a Hope for Prisoners graduation, where the president shook hands with the 21 graduates. 

Ponder gave a nod to Trump and Metro, which assists him with the program.

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman took to Twitter to congratulate Ponder: "Congratulations to @JonDPonder on receiving a well deserved pardon from @POTUS. Thank you for all that you do to build up community in @CityOfLasVegas!"

Nevada Assemblyman Tom Roberts, who is also a former Metro assistant sheriff, tweeted: "Well deserved."