A Queens soldier granted a pardon by the governor last week headed back to Afghanistan Saturday, optimistic that he could join the police force when he gets home. NY1’s Amanda Farinacci filed the following report.
Army Specialist Osvaldo Hernandez says he could not have asked for a better Christmas present; the 27- year-old Queens native was pardoned by Governor David Paterson on Christmas Eve, just days before being shipped out on his second tour of duty.
“I wasn't expecting for this pardon to be granted when it was,” he said. “And honestly, I couldn't have asked for a better present, and so thank you Governor Paterson, thank you very much for the granting of this pardon.”
In 2002, Hernandez was arrested for felony gun possession – admitting to officers during a routine traffic stop that he had a loaded gun in his car because the Corona neighborhood where he lived was dangerous. He pleaded guilty, served eight months in prison, and enlisted in the Army when he got out.
His first tour of duty was three years, part of it spent in Afghanistan, and when he was discharged, he decided he wanted to join the New York City Police Department. But a strict policy of not hiring candidates with felony convictions means he was not eligible, despite the fact that he scored a 98 on the entrance exam.
“I made a mistake, and I felt I needed to repay my debt to society,” Hernandez said. “I felt I had to do right; so that was my whole goal behind it.”
Hernandez appealed to Paterson for a pardon – with letters of support from Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, the vice chief of staff to the United States Army, as well as attorneys, judges and police officers. Word came last week, clearing the way for Hernandez to become a police officer when his second tour is complete.
He says the NYPD is the perfect place for him to continue his civic duty, and to serve as a model for others who may have made mistakes in the past and want to correct them.
“If you looked at me seven years ago, where I was seven years ago, and look at me today, I've come a long way,” he said. “And that's just every day, just keep fighting for the same, just keep pushing it further and further. So basically, you just got to get motivated.”
Hernandez’s tour of duty is expected to last at least a year, and while he says he's looking forward to going back to Afghanistan, he says he's got lots to come home to.