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Newsom pardons woman who killed sex trafficker, spent decades behind bars

Sara Kruzan was imprisoned in California for nearly two decades after she killed the man who abused and pimped her when she was a teenager.
Gov. Gavin Newsom
Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a news conference in Sacramento, Calif., on June 24. Rich Pedroncelli / AP file

California Gov. Gavin Newsom last week pardoned Sara Kruzan, a victim of teen sex trafficking who spent nearly two decades in prison after she killed her abuser and has since become a national advocate for prison reform. 

Kruzan was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole in September 1995 for killing George Gilbert Howard as he attempted to sexually assault her. Howard sex trafficked her for years, starting when she was a teenager.

Kruzan was tried as an adult at age 16. 

In December 2010, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger commuted Kruzan’s sentence to 25 years to life, according to Newsom’s pardon, which was issued Friday. By 2013, Kruzan was again resentenced to a total term of 19 years to life, and then-Gov. Jerry Brown released her after she had served 18 years in prison. 

Newsom’s pardon says Kruzan has “transformed her life and dedicated herself to community service.” 

“She has provided evidence that she is living an upright life and has demonstrated her fitness for restoration of civic rights and responsibilities,” the pardon says. 

Although she hasn’t been behind bars for nearly a decade, Kruzan told the Los Angeles Times in May the conviction has continued to haunt her, creating difficulties applying for jobs or apartments. Although pardons don’t erase criminal convictions from people’s records, Newsom’s office said in a release that they can remove “counterproductive barriers to employment and public service.” 

Kruzan’s pardon was among 17 Newsom announced Friday, along with 15 commutations and a medical reprieve. Newsom has granted nearly 130 pardons in office.