Thirty-six-year-old Anthony Cima, of Gray, had almost given up on finding gainful employment following his drug arrest in 2008.
He’d served a month in jail after pleading guilty to a trafficking in a controlled substance charge, and then took advantage of the Drug Court program, which he completed in 2010. He finished up the last vestiges of his probationary and parole period in late 2012. His sentence had been served.
But that black mark still remained in his past. He’d been convicted of a felony. He couldn’t vote. He couldn’t legally own a firearm or hunt. And employers, by and large, didn’t want him on their payroll.
“Most job applications are done on computers nowadays. I’d get to the part where it would tell you that if you have ever been convicted of a felony to please exit the screen,” Cima said, recounting the difficulty finding a job after his sole criminal conviction.
“It was the only time I’d ever been in trouble or convicted of anything, but it got to the point where I wouldn’t even fill out the application anymore. It was pointless and a waste of time.”
“I felt like every time I’d do something good, my past would come back to haunt me.”
Cima got some of the best news of his life Monday.
Outgoing Governor Steve Beshear handed out 197 pardons to Kentuckians in the 11th hour of his administration, and Cima was on the list.
“It’s been like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders,” Cima said. “It’s a great feeling to know that I can vote again or I can take my son squirrel hunting or deer hunting. I feel like I’ve earned it.”
Cima was arrested for selling prescription pain pills and said he had an addiction himself. It was an odd place for him. He was a gifted athlete — a standout football player at Corbin and Lynn Camp High Schools. He knew he had developed a problem, but felt powerless to solve it. When he was taken into custody, he admitted to being relieved. He saw it as an opportunity to break his addiction.
“When I found out I was in trouble, I breathed a sigh of relief. I was going to go to jail or get the help that I needed. Everyone was real supportive of me,” Cima said. “People don’t understand how bad it (addiction) is until you’ve been there. If you’ve never been there, you don’t understand the control it has over you.”
After his arrest, he vowed to take advantage of “every avenue out there” to put his life back together. The Drug Court program, he said, was amazing. He also had support from his family and friends.
Around the time of his arrest, he’d met his future wife, Vicki. He was worried about their relationship.
“We had just got together. She didn’t know what was going on,” Cima said. “I’m so thankful that she stood behind me when she did find out. She told me if I messed up again, it’s over. She gave me one chance. That’s all I needed.”
The couple married in 2008 and have two children together, ages 8 and 2. He said he’s devoted his life to being a good father and husband. He said his wife was “tickled to death” to learn the news of his pardon Tuesday.
And he ran into a little fortune on the job front as well.
Cima said he worked for his family’s business for a while until he found an employer who didn’t automatically shun him because of his felony conviction. He currently delivers medical supplies for Southeastern Medical Supply in Corbin. He said the owners of the company, Barry and Sara Mahan, gave him the chance he needed and were very supportive of his efforts to seek the pardon.
“That just kind of showed me that there are people out there who do care,” Cima said. “I worried about everybody turning their back on me and being a outcast and people just continuing to shun me because of what happened. But there are people out there who want to help … who want you to succeed.”
“They gave me a chance when nobody else would. It’s been the best job I’ve ever had. They treat me well.”
In a media release distributed Monday night, Beshear said there were more than 3,400 requests for pardons that had been reviewed over several months. He specifically noted that several of the pardons he issued were for drug offenses.
“Throughout my administration, I have worked tirelessly with legislative leaders, local officials and advocates to wipe out the tragic impacts that substance abuse and addiction have had on the people of the Commonwealth,” Beshear said. “A significant part of that strategy has been a focus on treatment, to help these individuals have a fighting chance at staying clean and turning their lives around. After carefully considering the details of each of these cases, I am convinced that these individuals deserve a second chance at life with a clean record.”
A pardon from the governor completely wipes clean from the recipient’s criminal record any convictions that were the subject of the pardon. It’s as though the offense never happened.
Cima said he sees it as a true “second chance at life”
“It’s like starting over. I got that second chance now,” Cima said.
“I hoped and prayed that I would get it. I wanted it more than anything. I was hopeful, but I wasn’t getting my hopes up too much,” he added.
“God never gave up on me.”