‘I just can’t believe it’ | McKinney man receives long-awaited full presidential pardon

“From the crack house to the big house and now going to the White House — I just can’t believe it,” said Jason Hernandez of his second chance at life

MCKINNEY, Texas — This week President Joe Biden granted clemency and pardons to 16 people who were convicted of non-violent drug offenses. 

One of those pardoned is Jason Hernandez, 47, of McKinney. Jason was arrested at the age of 21 for drug offenses and was sentenced to a life term plus 320 years. In 2013, then-President Barack Obama commuted his life sentence and more than 10 years later, he has received a full pardon.

“I just said, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God,'” he recalled saying during a phone conversation with U.S. pardon attorneys this week.

Hernandez has been down a very long road to restoring his image and reputation in the community. When he returned from prison, he vowed to get back to the east side where he’s from to re-write his story.

“I’m not sure how many chances everyone ought to get, but I know it’s two,” said Patrick Cloutier, a McKinney city councilman and friend.

Jason now runs a nonprofit called “La Tiendita” at the store he used to sell drugs from as a juvenile. 

According to a press release from the White House, “the mayor of his hometown, other city officials, colleagues, and community members uniformly attest to the change in Mr. Hernandez’s character since his conviction, the significant contributions he’s made to his community, and his humble, giving nature.”

Good friends Kim Hughes, Patrick Cloutier, and Oscar Garza are some of the few who got immediate phone calls from Jason last week after he learned of the pardon.

“You just saw something inside of him that said…he’s different,” said Hughes. “This is the world seeing he is the right guy,” said Cloutier.

Oscar Garza of OG’s Chop Shop in McKinney went to school with Jason’s brother early on. When Jason left the halfway house, the two had connected to do some good for the community. One event they both partnered on was a ‘Back-to-School Cuts for Success’ event at the beginning of the school year for the last 12 years.

“I think it’s what drives him every day to do what he does for the community,” said Garza.

When Garza got the call from Hernandez that he was going to meet with Vice President Kamala Harris last week and needed a fresh cut, Garza immediately opened up his barber shop.

This new development is a huge step for Hernandez. Now that the felonies are off his record, he can do many things he previously couldn’t, like travel outside the country and apply for all jobs. Hernandez does not quite know what he wants to do next, but he has some interest in teaching.

“From the crack house to the big house and now going to the White House — I just can’t believe it,” Jason laughed.

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