Baker pardons four men for decades-old offenses
Most were for relatively minor charges
AS HE CLOSES in on the end of his final term, Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday issued the first pardons of his nearly 8 years in office, wiping away criminal records of four people on decades-old convictions, most of them for relatively minor charges.
The four men are Kenneth Dunn, Steven Joanis, Stephen Polignone, and Michael Picanso.
“All of these individuals have shown a commitment to their communities and rehabilitation since their convictions,” Baker said in a statement. “However, the charges are related to decades-old convictions that continue to have an impact on their lives. “
Baker’s pardons must be confirmed by the Governor’s Council before they go into effect.
Baker took office in 2015, and in January 2022 made his first two commutations, commuting the sentences of two men convicted of murder, Thomas Koonce and William Allen, from first to second degree murder, making them eligible for parole. The four pardons announced Wednesday are the first of Baker’s tenure. A pardon completely forgives the underlying offense and removes a criminal record that can impact things like employment and eligibility for a gun license. All four pardons were recommended unanimously by the Advisory Board of Pardons.
Kenneth Dunn was convicted of larceny from a building in 1971 and served a year on probation, which he completed without incident. According to Dunn, he was 20 at the time and recently discharged from the US Navy. He met friends at a water pump house on Crystal Lake in Chelmsford, where football equipment was stored, that his friends had broken into. Dunn denied he was involved in the break-in and said he did not take anything from the pump house. He says he appeared in court without an attorney and agreed to plead guilty and spend a year on probation to get the case resolved. His only other criminal convictions were two incidents of disorderly conduct, also in the early 1970s.
Dunn, now a retired truck driver, has held a firearms license for hunting and target shooting for much of his adult life. But a New Hampshire police department recently forced him to relinquish that license because of the old conviction. He sought the pardon to get his firearms license back.
Joanis was convicted of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and armed assault in a dwelling in 1990 and given a six-month jail sentence, suspended for a year of probation, which he completed.
There is no police report available. Joanis told the Advisory Board of Pardons that a girl he was dating told him that she had been raped and kidnapped, and the assailant was trying to contact her again. Joanis went to the alleged perpetrator’s home with a .22 caliber unloaded rifle to scare him. Instead, the other man held him at gunpoint with a handgun and called the police. Joanis has said he made a mistake as a 17-year-old attempting to protect his girlfriend.
Joanis, a Franklin resident working in engineering who has also worked as a professor, asked for a pardon in order to be eligible for employment and volunteer opportunities that require a criminal background check. He is worried about not being able to renew his teaching certificate. He has been involved with religious and civic organizations – acting as a search and rescue pilot, volunteering for the Knights of Columbus and My Brother’s Keeper, and donating to his church – and he wants to volunteer in capacities that may require a criminal records check, like coaching youth sports.
Polignone was convicted of larceny and altering a motor vehicle license/registration in 1980 and sentenced to a year of probation, which he completed without incident. He was convicted of writing bad checks from a fund that did not have enough money and doing so while possessing an altered license. He says he was 23 at the time and wrote two or three bad checks. He has since expressed remorse.
Picanso was convicted of trespass, larceny, and wanton destruction of property in 1986, and sentenced to a fine and a year on probation, which he completed. There is no available police report. But Picanso told the Advisory Board of Pardons that he was 21 years old and driving through Salisbury at night when he got a flat tire. He and a passenger, who he had just met, went walking looking for a phone or ride and found a car dealership. The other man broke a car’s window and stole the spare tire and tire iron. They were stopped by the police on the way back to their car.Picanso wants a pardon in order to obtain high-level security clearance to get a promotion at his workplace, UTC Aerospace. He also wants to renew his gun license, which was revoked when he tried to renew it in 2015.