Former bank robber and now Christian ministry founder Jon Ponder was pardoned by President Donald Trump on the second night of the Republican National Convention. The emotional moment came as the President and Ponder stood with the FBI agent who apprehended him.
“Jon’s life is a beautiful testament to the power of redemption,” Trump announced in a video as he granted Ponder a full pardon, which covers the removal of a federal bank robbery charge from Ponder’s record.
Ponder, a former three-time convicted felon, was arrested for bank robbery in 2004 in Nevada by FBI agent Richard Beasley. He later became an advocate for criminal justice reform, and founded the Las Vegas nonprofit Hope for Prisoners to help fellow ex-offenders overcome barriers to reentering society and finding employment.
“In the last 10 years since Jon was released, he has created one of the most successful reentry programs, Hope for Prisoners in Las Vegas,” Trump said in a prerecorded message at the White House.
VIDEO: Watch Ponder speak and his pardon
“Hope for Prisoners is a movement that began as a dream in a tiny prison cell and is now making a difference in the lives of thousands, truly bringing hope that there is an opportunity and a community that is waiting and willing to offer them a second chance,” Trump added.
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“I will continue to give all Americans, including former inmates, the best chance to build a new life and achieve their own American dream, and a great American dream it is.”
Ponder expressed hope in remarks at the Republican convention, which is being held in a televised format, similar to the Democratic Party’s convention a week earlier, due to the pandemic caused by the coronavirus.
“I am so grateful to be here. Not so long ago, my life was running from the police, fearing the police, and avoiding the police,” he said. “I had allowed animosity to grow inside of me, making me believe that they were my enemy.”
VIDEO: Lives changed by ministry
“My hope for America is that all people regardless of race, color, class, or background will take advantage of the fact that we live in a nation of second chances,” he added. “My greatest failure led to my greatest success. My hope for America is that we can all look at our failures and use them to work together for a future of successes.”
Ponder said that he is “filled with hope” and that he has been given a second chance.
“My transformation began in a prison cell. I gave my life to Jesus,” he said. “First person to help me was actually the FBI agent who arrested me, Rich Beasley. He is now a dear friend.”
Beasley, who is now retired, also spoke at the convention.
“When I met Jon 15 years ago, he was angry, scared, and facing years in prison. On the drive to jail, we had a long talk and began to understand each other,” Beasley recounted. “Five years later, when he got out of prison, Jon and I met for lunch. He was a different man.”
“I’m grateful for President Trump’s commitment to criminal justice reform,” Beasley said, recounting how Trump spoke as a guest at the Hope for Prisoners graduation 6 months prior.
“The most important man in the free world was shaking hands and pledging his administration’s support to ex-offenders,” he said.
“I also appreciate President Trump’s support for law enforcement. He knows the overwhelming percentage of law enforcement officers are good, smart people who are doing their jobs well. And they can change the world, working with people like Jon.”
–EPTimes and press services