Sara Kruzan, a victim of sex trafficking who was sentenced to life in prison as a teenager for killing her pimp after years of torture, has been pardoned by California Governor Gavin Newsom. It is the last phase of the 44-year-old’s official redemption, which has lasted more than a decade and three governors from both parties.
In a failed robbery, Kruzan shot and killed George Gilbert Howard in a Riverside hotel room. She was then prosecuted as an adult. Kruzan fled with the money from Howard’s wallet and the keys to his Jaguar after shooting him in the neck at close range.
She was 17 years old when she was found guilty and given the life sentence for the 1994 slaying of the man she said had sexually abused her and sold her into prostitution beginning when she was just 13 years old. She was imprisoned for 18 years until being released in 2013 under Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, Newsom’s predecessor. In early 2011, Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Brown’s predecessor, commuted her sentence of 25 years to life with the chance of parole.
Kruzan gained notoriety among reformers and state legislators working to lessen the severity of life sentences for young offenders. Her situation was described as a “perfect example of adults who failed her, of society failing her” by former Democratic state senator Leland Yee, who later served time in jail for corruption.
Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom said in his Friday pardon that Kruzan has demonstrated that she “is living an upright life.” Newsom stated that she “has transformed her life and dedicated herself to community service.” He added that while he is not excusing her crimes, he does “recognize the work she has done since to transform herself.”
Newsom has issued a total of 129 pardons, 123 commutations, and 35 reprieves since assuming office in January 2019.