An Oakland, California, man pardoned for crimes he committed nearly three decades ago says he considers the Easter Sunday announcement a new beginning in his life.
Eddy Zheng, 45, next has to convince federal immigration authorities not to use crimes he committed at age 16 as grounds for deporting him to his native China.
Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday granted pardons to 83 people. An announcement by Brown's office said that each person has been out of state prison for at least 10 years and leads a productive life with no new criminal convictions. Most of them had been convicted of drug and robbery cases.
Zheng said he feels like he won the lottery.
"It doesn't change the fact that I committed my crime,'' Zheng said. "It doesn't change that I hurt my victims, my community, my family and myself.''
But he said that the pardon validates his rehabilitation.
An immigrant from China, Zheng in January 1986 committed a robbery and kidnapping in San Francisco that put him in state prison for 19 years. He spent two more years in federal detention, fighting his deportation. He said that battle is not over and he could be deported.
Zheng, now married with a 17-month-old daughter, works as a project director at the Community Youth Center of San Francisco. He has led over 200 anti-violence presentations, telling his story, according to the governor's office. Zheng says he hopes others will hear his success and see they can change their lives.
"Hopefully, with the pardon other people who want to change their lives will see it can happen,'' he said. "Through work good things will happen.''