By Michael Hill
Twenty-four-year-old Steffon Josey-Davis is relieved after Gov. Chris Christie pardoned him — wiping away Steffon’s criminal conviction for mistakenly carrying his registered Smith & Wesson 9mm in his glove compartment two years ago.
“I was just excited. I let my family know and we had a little celebration at the house. It was just a blessing,” he said.
Steffon says he had lost a lot — his armored car driver job, money saved to buy a house and a future at becoming a detective inspired by the still unsolved murder of his grandfather in the 1980s in Paterson.
“This was going to haunt me. Being in court facing five to 10 years in prison, you know, I had no opportunities after that. My life was just ruined,” he said.
Steffon’s online petition for a pardon collected some 94,000 signatures — a fact not lost on the governor who’s issued just two pardons — one for Steffon and another for Shaneen Allen of Philadelphia — both for illegally carrying a gun in the Garden State.
“I think this is an issue that Gov. Christie has struggled with in terms of the right wing. And when he was Attorney General he was actually arguing for sensible gun reform and that doesn’t play very well in presidential politics. So, I think that this pardon is kind of an easy way for him to repeat the message that he’s been saying that New Jersey’s gun laws are absolutely draconian and as a result he’s going to give some leeway where he can and he can do that in pardons,” said Seton Hall University Associate Professor of Political Science Matt Hale.
The governor also has vetoed gun legislation that the Democrat-controlled legislature has passed, but some in the gun lobby say he’s failed to sign an executive order to allow New Jerseyans to carry arms for the purpose of defending themselves.
“He has not done that, despite pleas, plea after plea after plea for him to consider that. I honestly think that Christie’s determination to pardon Steffon was completely based on politics. I also don’t believe that it will do him any good at this point,” said Frank Fiamingo, former president of the New Jersey Second Amendment Society.
Steffon says he doesn’t know about the politics or timing of this pardon. But he says the governor took an early interest in his case. His staff interviewed Steffon to find out more about the charge and Steffon.
“So, I believe that he really took the time out to do this. If he had another agenda for it, it still worked out in my favor and it’s helping him. But, I believe it was genuine,” Steffon said.
Whatever the governor’s motive, his pardon allows Steffon to pursue a law enforcement career, and potentially to solve the three-decade-old murder of his grandfather.