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RNC night 2: Jon Ponder pardon, Abby Johnson abortion conversion, Melania calls for unity

Trump pardons activist Jon Ponder

A special section of the RNC Tuesday night featured President Trump issuing a pardon to prison re-entry activist Jon Ponder, whom he described as “a beautiful testament to the power of redemption.”

“At the age of 38, he was arrested for bank robbery,” Trump explained in a ceremony held at the White House. “While Jon was in prison, he began reading the Bible and listening to Christian radio.”

“One day, he heard Rev. Billy Graham on the radio proclaim ‘Jesus wants to be Lord of your life,’” Trump said. “On that day, Jon dedicated his life to Christ.”

Trump went on to discuss how Ponder became “best friends” with the FBI agent who arrested him and “created one of the most successful” re-entry programs in Las Vegas called Hope for Prisoners.

Both Ponder and the agent who arrested him, Richard Beasley, appeared beside the Trump in the Oval Office for the short ceremony. 

“We believe that each person is made by God for a purpose,” Trump proclaimed. “I will continue to give all Americans, including former inmates, the best chance to build a new life and achieve their own American dream.”

Trump gave Ponder the opportunity to tell his story. 

“I gave my life to Jesus and made Him a promise that I would spend the rest of my days helping others like me,” Ponder said.

“My first help and support came from the unlikeliest of places: the FBI agent who arrested me, Richard Beasley,” Ponder declared. 

He described Beasley as a “dear friend” before thanking the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department for volunteering to help people returning to society after incarceration.

“My hope for America is that formerly incarcerated people will be afforded the opportunity to take advantage of the fact that we live a nation of second chances,” he declared. “My hope for America is that law enforcement and people in the communities across our country can come together and realize that as Americans, we have more in common than we have differences.”

Beasley was also given the opportunity to speak. 

“It may be hard to believe that, as a retired FBI agent, one of my best friends is a person I arrested for bank robbery,” Beasley said.

“When I first met Jon 15 years ago, he was angry, scared, frustrated, and anxious about his future,” he recalled. “On the drive to prison, I stopped at a convenience store and bought Jon a coffee and a donut.”

After detailing how the two reconnected following Ponder’s release, Beasley thanked the president for his support for criminal justice reform and mentioned that the commander-in-chief attended the Hope for Prisoners graduation in February. 

“He stayed much longer than scheduled to hand out diplomas to the 29 men and women who graduated that day,” Beasley said. 

Beasley praised Trump’s support for law enforcement at a time when “law enforcement doesn’t feel like they have the support from their local leaders.” 

“As President Trump knows, the overwhelming percentage of law enforcement officers are good, smart people who are doing their jobs very well and they can change the world working with people like Jon,” he argued.

Ponder is a three-time convicted felon who was earlier this year granted pardons by the Nevada Board of Pardons. Ponder served a 63-month sentence for several robberies.

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