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Sentences commuted for convicted murderers

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Gov. Jerry Brown has commuted the sentences of two men convicted of murder in Alameda County, saying he believes both men have turned their lives around.

The commutations for David Bom Le, now 34, and Virgil Holt, now 50, were among 31 commutations that Brown issued on Friday. The governor also pardoned 36 ex-convicts.

In March 2007, an Alameda County Superior Court jury convicted Le of second-degree murder and a gun-use enhancement for fatally shooting 22-year-old Chau Tran in the 1900 block of Crosby Street in Oakland on June 4, 2006, when Brown was still mayor of Oakland.

On Feb. 1, 2018, Judge Thomas Reardon sentenced Le to 40 years to life in state prison, giving him 15 years to life for second-degree murder plus 25 years to life for the gun enhancement.

Brown said that because Le was only 22 at the time of the shooting, he would have been eligible for youthful offender parole consideration in 2030 because of U.S. and California Supreme Court decisions and changes in state laws.

But Brown said he believes Le “has earned an earlier opportunity to make his case” to the state Board of Parole Hearings because he’s been “a model prisoner,” is working toward a college degree, has participated in self-help programs and has volunteered as a literacy tutor and student teaching assistant.

In addition, Brown said Le serves as circulation manager for the San Quentin News and has earned strong support from the prison newspaper’s staff.

In his commutation application, Le said:

“Recognizing the harm I have caused, I have committed myself to living upright, to come to terms with and cope with my feelings, to think twice about my decisions and to serve my community.”

Le wrote:

“I am committed to living a nonviolent, crime-free and productive life in the interest of my community.”

Holt was convicted of murder, false imprisonment and a firearm enhancement and sentenced to life in prison without parole for fatally shooting Kwami Davis, his supervisor at a fast-food restaurant in Alameda County, on April 19, 1989, three months after Davis fired him, according to Brown.

Holt has acknowledged “the significant impact of his crime” but applied for clemency based on his record of rehabilitation, Brown said.

Holt wrote in his application:

“I am no longer the out-of-control, reckless and irresponsible person that I was nearly 30 years ago.”

Brown said:

“I do not discount the gravity of Mr. Holt’s offense, but I also cannot overlook the many strides he has made in prison.”

The governor said, “It appears (Holt) has made a major change and has been seriously dedicated to turning his life around,” as he has participated in self-help programs and works as a trainer for shelter dogs to prepare them for adoption.

Brown said:

“I believe it is appropriate to reduce his sentence so that the Board of Parole Hearings can determine whether he is suitable for parole.”

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