Governor Cooper commutes sentence and issues pardons of forgiveness

RALEIGH, N.C. (WITN) – Governor Cooper today commuted one person’s sentence in a North Carolina prison and granted pardons of forgiveness to four others.

According to Cooper’s staff, the commutation and pardons followed an intensive review of cases, including the circumstances of the crimes, length of the sentences, records in prison, and readiness to reenter communities successfully after prison.

The commutation follows a recommendation by the Juvenile Sentence Review Board, which the Governor established to review petitions from people sentenced to prison after crimes committed while they were under the age of 18.

“Ensuring careful review of cases while taking executive clemency action is a responsibility I take seriously,” said Governor Cooper. “We carefully consider recommendations made by the Juvenile Sentence Review Board to commute sentences for crimes committed by minors. All of these individuals are deserving of clemency and we will continue to work to protect our communities and improve the fairness of our criminal justice system.”

Darnell Cherry, 42, has served 26 years in prison for his involvement at age 16 in the murder and robbery of Robert Earl Edwards, Jr., and the robbery and shooting of Sonja Williams in Bertie County. Cherry’s projected release date would have been in January 2035 but the Juvenile Sentence Review Board said that Cherry has been consistently employed and has participated in learning programs, including obtaining his G.E.D. and trade qualifications in their recommendation that his sentence be commuted.

Portia Bright-Pittman, 38 was convicted of accessory after the fact to armed robbery in Orange County in 2008. According to the governor’s office, Bright-Pittman was 22 years old when the offense was committed. She has since worked in state government for many years.

Dr. W. Samuel Fagg, 43, was convicted of possession with intent to sell or deliver cocaine in Wake County in 2002. According to the governor’s office, Dr. Fagg was 21 years old when the offense was committed. He has since obtained a master’s degree and PhD and now conducts advanced scientific research related to regenerative medicine.

Tramayne Hinton, 42, was convicted of robbery in Perquimans County in 1998. According to the governor’s office, Hinton was 16 years old when the offense was committed. He has since completed high school and has worked in sales and marketing in addition to owning his own business.

Flemming Ragas, 45, was convicted of breaking and entering, larceny, and possession of stolen goods in Lee and Cumberland counties in 1999. According to the governor’s office, Ragas was 20 years old when the offenses were committed. Ragas served in the United States Army and National Guard, including two deployments to Iraq where he earned the Bronze Star and Meritorious Service Medal.