Sala Udin at his Pittsburgh home.
By Tracie Mauriello
Post-Gazette Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON — Sala Udin was stopped for speeding as he drove from a rally in Mississippi to drop off a carload of fellow Freedom Riders in Cleveland before heading home to Pittsburgh. Police who stopped him in Kentucky that day in 1970 searched his car, found an unloaded shotgun and a jug of Mississippi moonshine, and hauled him off to jail.
In 1972, he was sent to federal prison for seven months, with the shadow of his conviction hanging over him for the next 44 years.
On Monday, President Barack Obama pardoned the civil rights activist and 77 other people across the country. The president also issued 153 commutations to people sentenced for a variety of crimes, most involving manufacturing, selling or possessing drugs.
That brings the president’s total clemency actions to 1,324 — more than any predecessor since Lyndon B. Johnson.
Mr. Obama’s pardons and commutations “exemplify his belief that America is a nation of second chances,” said Neil Eggleston, counsel to the president. “While each clemency recipient’s story is unique, the common thread of rehabilitation underlies them all.”
A presidential pardon grants absolution as if a crime had never occurred.
“It’s a second chance, and I think — for most crimes — people deserve a second chance. Some of them would mess up again, but most of them would take full advantage of a second chance,” Mr. Udin said.