Family of Fort Myers man confused by governor’s decision not to commute sentence

Reporter: Dannielle Garcia Writer: Melissa Montoya
Published: Updated:
Michael Edwards with family members. Credit: WINK News.

A 58-year-old man with a 60-year sentence on minor drug charges was hoping for clemency from Gov. Ron DeSantis.

That hope was dashed for Michael Edwards on Wednesday after the Florida governor said he was not “inclined to commute at this time” during a meeting of the executive clemency board, which includes DeSantis and his Cabinet.

Edwards’ case went before the governor in September of last year, prompting DeSantis to ask for more time for a decision in the case due to Edwards being recently caught with contraband — a cell phone — at the time.

Edwards was given a 60-year sentence for selling a spoonful of cocaine, a street value of $850, to an ex-girlfriend, turned informant. Edwards was 30 at the time his sentence started. He was imprisoned under Florida’s three-strike law.

Calls for release for Edwards have come from high places, including from Joseph D’Alessandro, the state attorney at the time of Edwards’s conviction.

“It’s time for him to get out,” D’Alessandro said back in September.

The board was expected to have a decision two weeks after the September hearing, but it took six months for an answer, only after Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried brought up Edwards’ case during the clemency hearing this week.

It was not scheduled to be addressed during the meeting’s formal agenda.

DeSantis’s quick response confused Edwards’ family, wondering if it meant he just wasn’t ready to say.

“Michael took it as a setback,” said one family member.

But others are hoping DeSantis’ decision to not commute “at this time” means that maybe somewhere down the line he will be ready to do so.

Edwards’ sister Mimi Edwards said she was upset “not knowing what (DeSantis) meant.”

Mimi Edwards said the family still hasn’t gotten an official notice of denial making them wonder if there is still hope.

WINK News reached out to the governor’s office for clarification on his decision.

Regardless, the decision to not commute right now is an “outrageous” one, Fried said.

Fried said this is an example of the clemency process not working.

“It is completely arbitrary and capricious,” she said.

Fried said she believes DeSantis’s decision against commutation was “political retribution” against her.

Fried defied DeSantis when he asked that flags be lowered to half-staff after Rush Limbaugh’s death last month.

“He’s impacting Mr. Edwards and his family,” Fried said.

The decision shows that the clemency board process does not give people a fair shake, Fried said.

“We’ve got to make some significant changes in the arbitrariness of this process,” she said.




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