Gov. Newsom Pardons Woman Sentenced for Killing Her Pimp When She was a Teenager

Brontë Wittpenn/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday pardoned a former inmate who received a life sentence when she was a teenager for killing her former pimp.

It's the final step in an official redemption that has spanned more than a decade and three governors of both political parties.

Hers was among nearly three dozen such pardons and clemencies Friday that also affected older and younger offenders.

NBC 7 presents “STOLEN,” a year-long investigation into the sex trafficking and exploitation of children in San Diego County.

Sara Kruzan was 16 when she killed George Gilbert Howard in a Riverside motel room. She was 17 when she was sentenced to die in prison for the 1994 murder of the man she said had sexually abused her and trafficked her for sex starting when she was 13 years old.

She served 18 years in prison until Newsom's predecessor, then-Gov. Jerry Brown, allowed her release in 2013.

Brown's predecessor, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, had commuted her sentence to life with the possibility of parole just before he left office in early 2011.

By then Kruzan had become something of a cause célèbre for state lawmakers and reform groups seeking to soften harsh life sentences for those who committed their crimes as juveniles.

Leland Yee, a Democratic state senator who himself later went to prison for corruption, at the time called her case a “perfect example of adults who failed her, of society failing her. You had a predator who stalked her, raped her, forced her into prostitution, and there was no one around.”

Newsom said in his pardon that Kruzan has since shown that she “is living an upright life.”

Since the slaying, he said she “has transformed her life and dedicated herself to community service." The pardon, Newsom said, does not minimize her crime or the damage it caused, but “it does recognize the work she has done since to transform herself.”

Kruzan’s was among 17 pardons announced Friday.

A pardon does not expunge or erase a conviction, the governor's office said, but can help blunt the lingering impact on the recipient's life. For instance, three others he pardoned face the possibility of deportation based on their criminal history, including one who already has been deported.

Newsom also commuted the sentences of 15 current inmates and granted a reprieve to an inmate who is at high medical risk.

The commutations give the inmates the chance to appear before a parole board that will decide if they are suitable for release.

One of the commutations, of inmate Darnell Green, was recommended by the state's corrections secretary based on his exceptional conduct in prison after he was initially sentenced for a 1997 armed robbery in which no one was hurt.

Two others whose sentences were commuted have worked as inmate firefighters.

Newsom commuted the sentences of one inmate who was arrested at age 15, and another who is now 78 years old.

He pardoned an 82-year-old Holocaust survivor who the governor said was arrested for consensual adult sex at a time when California unjustly criminalized LGBTQ people.

Newsom has now granted 129 pardons, 123 commutations, and 35 reprieves.

Contact Us