For Felon Mayor-Elect, Redemption Is Denied
Small town OK with past, Ariz. board isn't
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 11, 2011 4:31 AM CDT
Pawnee, Okla. Mayor-Elect Christopher Linder will not be allowed to take office.   (AP Photo/Christopher Linder)

(Newser) – Christopher Linder persuaded the people of a small Oklahoma town to elect him as their mayor despite his criminal past, but he couldn't persuade a clemency board in Arizona to scrub his felony convictions. The 33-year-old former gang member, convicted of transporting marijuana and taking part in a drive-by shooting in Phoenix 12 years ago, will now not be allowed to take the office that the people of Pawnee voted him into, reports the New York Times.

Linder, who told the town's voters about his past during his hard-fought mayoral campaign, served five years for his crimes. He and his wife bought a restaurant and built a new life in her native Pawnee after his release in 2005—Linder now serves on the Chamber of Commerce, attends the local Baptist church, and coaches baseball. "This is a tough one,” one clemency board member said. "I’ve long been a believer when the public speaks at the ballot box, that’s an important decision." He opted to pardon Linder, but the four other board members decided the other way. Linder may now take the matter up in court, or his wife could run for mayor in the special election to replace him.