Democratic Gov. Janet Mills had tears in her eyes after signing the pardon for the late Don Gellers on Tuesday, telling a group including tribal leaders that justice “was a long time coming.”
Mills’ office said it is believed to be the first posthumous pardon issued in the state.
Supporters of Gellers, who died five years ago, contend law enforcement officers arrested him in 1968 to quash his tribal land claims and advocacy for the tribe. Gellers’ early work laid the groundwork for Maine’s tribal land claims settlement act, which happened in 1980.
“There’s merit to the idea that he was singled out and basically targeted,” the governor told reporters.
The facts of the case were unusual.
The attorney general prosecuted Gellers under a felony statute that derailed his legal career after police found six marijuana cigarettes in his home. The felony conviction stood even though lawmakers had made minor possession a misdemeanor by the time of his appeal and his disbarment from the legal profession in Maine, Mills said.
The Portland Press