Old Criminal Records Can Haunt You
May 17, 2010
A simple criminal background check can reveal most charges going back many years. In most states, employers can check back to your 18th birthday. We are not posting this because we are passing judgment, we are posting it because it begs some interesting questions. Should this soldier have revealed this conviction in the first place? Should the National Guard even consider a conviction this old? Is domestic abuse in any sense an extreme act of violence? Looking forward to your comments!
He thought the case was closed.
He believed he had paid his debt to society in 1992 when he paid a $10 fine and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of assaulting his wife during a quarrel when they were newly married.
He was wrong.
Thanks to that long-ago offense, the man recently lost his job of 16 years at the Vermont National Guard, a large part of his military pension and the chance to serve his country in Afghanistan.
He’s been trying to get his job back ever since.
To that end, six Guard officers have written letters of commendation for him, and three legislators have lobbied on his behalf. Two judges have sympathized with his plight. Chittenden County State’s Attorney Thomas J. Donovan even tried to get the court to throw out the 18-year-old conviction.
What the man doesn’t have is what he needs most: a pardon from Gov. Jim Douglas.
Without a pardon, he has no future with the Guard because, under a 1995 revision to federal gun laws known as the Lautenberg amendment, a person with a misdemeanor domestic assault conviction can’t have a weapon. And he can’t be a soldier without a weapon.
Douglas, who has pardoned three other Vermonters convicted of misdemeanor simple assaults, turned down the man’s pardon request in October. Efforts by the man’s lawyers to get his conviction expunged or otherwise set aside by a judge have also failed.
Today, the 44-year-old Colchester resident is trying to restart his life.
Unemployed and hoping to shelter his children from public scrutiny, he asked that he and his family not be identified by name in this story as he searches for a solution to his predicament.
“I’m just lost,” he said. “I wake up every day wondering how I am going to provide for my family. … I devoted my whole life to the Guard. It was such a great way of life for me. I felt I fit into something. It was a way I could give back to my community and my country.”
His misdemeanor conviction, which he said he disclosed to the Guard when he re-enlisted 14 years ago, did not stop him from serving in Kuwait in 2004-2005 or from being promoted several times afterward.
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