Emmanuel Nkemakolam, now 47, was arrested on Christmas Eve 1991, when customs agents at a Queens airport discovered drugs in his suitcase, which had a false top and bottom, said Tom Grant, special assistant to the chairman for the state Division of Parole.
The incident probably occurred at Kennedy, but information on the conviction was scarce, Grant said.
Nkemakolam was tried and convicted in State Supreme Court in Kew Gardens of possession of a controlled substance and sentenced to 15 years to life under the state's harsh Rockefeller drug laws.
Details on Nkemakolam's background were unavailable, but he did not have a prior criminal record when he was arrested, a news release said.
"The holiday season is a time when we are reminded of the true meaning of compassion, particularly for those who take it upon themselves to improve their lives," Pataki said in a statement announcing the clemency Dec. 23. "Emmanuel Nkemakolam has served a long sentence and has dedicated himself to becoming a contributing member of society."
While in an upstate prison, Nkemakolam has maintained an excellent disciplinary record, the release said. He has also served as a teacher's aide, literacy volunteer, paralegal assistant in the law library and program aide in the vocational program. Nkemakolam earned his basic legal research certificate of merit and is a long-standing participant in the prison ministry and fellowship, the release said.
"While I remain firmly committed to continuing our successful efforts to fight crime, Mr. Nkemakolam has worked hard to earn a second chance," Pataki said.
Nkemakolam will not be automatically released, but the parole board will consider him for parole release in mid-January, nearly three years earlier than his original eligibility date of December 2006, the release said. He may be returned to prison should he violate his parole terms.
Since 1995 Pataki has commuted the sentences of 31 people, including Nkemakolam, Grant said. The state Clemency Bureau receives nearly 500 applications each year, although there is no formal application process or forms, Grant said. The decision to grant clemency is based on an individual's successful participation in educational, vocational or volunteer programs in prison, Grant said.
Pataki also granted a posthumous pardon to performer Lenny Bruce, who was convicted of giving an obscene performance in 1964, the release said. During a comedy routine at a Manhattan club, Bruce used dozens of obscene words and was sentenced to four months in prison for the misdemeanor crime.
Bruce died two years later in the midst of appealing his case. His is the first posthumous pardon granted in New York state, the release said.
Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.
©2004 Community News Group
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