Like most parents, nothing is more important to Kelley Williams-Bolar than the safety and well-being of her children. After her home was burglarized, Kelley worried about leaving her two daughters, Kayla and Jada, home alone after school while she attended classes at the University of Akron to become a teacher. To keep her daughters safe, Kelley enrolled them in a neighboring suburban school district where her father owned a home. Though the girls spent afternoons and some nights with their grandfather, they did not reside with him full-time. Eventually the school district launched an investigation which led to Kelley’s prosecution on felony charges. In January 2011, a jury convicted Kelley of two counts of felony tampering with records. Although Kelley had never before been in trouble with the law, the judge sentenced her to spend ten days in jail. Having never been separated from her daughters, Kelley wailed as sheriff’s deputies led her from the courtroom. She worried that her teaching career would be in jeopardy as a result of her felony record. Kelley’s case drew substantial media coverage in the national press, with some commentators hailing her as “the Rosa Parks of education.”
OJPC Executive Director David Singleton and OJPC attorney Angelina Jackson began representing Kelley shortly after her release from jail. OJPC agreed to handle Kelley’s appeal of her convictions. But there was another option. Because of the national attention to the case, Governor Kasich expressed interest in possibly pardoning Kelley and directed the Parole Board to conduct an investigation. However, after conducting a hearing, the Parole Board unanimously voted against recommending clemency. But OJPC did not give up on Kelley and made one final push with the Governor’s Office.
On September 7, 2011, Governor Kasich granted clemency to Kelley. Although the Governor did not grant a full pardon, he reduced her felony convictions to misdemeanors, lessening the risk that she would be barred from teaching. In announcing his decision, the Governor said: “When I first heard about this situation, it seemed to me that the penalty was excessive for the offense. In addition, the penalty could exclude her from certain economic opportunities for the rest of her life. So, today I’ve reduced those felony convictions to what I think are the more appropriate, first degree misdemeanors. No one should interpret this as a pass—it’s a second chance.” Kelley is grateful for the work OJPC did on her behalf and for the second chance the Governor’s partial pardon has given her.