Outgoing Gov. Kitzhaber commutes sentence of young inmate
Author: AP and KATU
Posted: February 19, 2015

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SALEM, Ore. (AP) — As one of his final acts in office, Oregon's outgoing governor, John Kitzhaber, commuted the prison sentence of a young inmate convicted of attempted murder.

Sang Dao, 25, sentenced to more than 12 years in prison, will be released next month, at least three years early.

It's not clear why Kitzhaber granted him clemency. The commutation document, obtained by The Associated Press, didn't state a reason, and the former governor didn't reply to an email seeking comment. But Kitzhaber's fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, who's at the center of an ethics scandal that prompted him to leave office, spoke at a ceremony last summer when Dao graduated from college while locked in a correctional facility.

Hayes faces allegations that she used her relationship to land work for her consulting firm. Kitzhaber has denied wrongdoing on both their parts.

Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill, whose office prosecuted Dao, supported the clemency, noting that Dao was committed to education and that he took responsibility for his crime.

Underhill wrote in a letter to Kitzhaber that Dao has taken "exceptional steps" to "improve himself and make amends to our community since his incarceration."

The conviction stems from two gang shootings in 2007, according to The Oregonian. Authorities said Dao and a friend shot at a car in Portland; three people were in the vehicle, but nobody was hurt. Two months later, Dao and a friend fired shots outside a middle school and one man was wounded in the leg.

The commutation was signed Tuesday, a day before Kitzhaber handed power to his successor, Kate Brown. Brown signed the document in her former role as secretary of state.

Dao will leave prison March 17. Department of Corrections records show his earliest possible release date had been in November 2018. In addition to attempted murder, he was convicted of unlawful use of a weapon and assault.

In earning his degree while at MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility, however, Dao "took advantage of all the benefits and the programs that we offered, and he made the most of them," spokesman C.J. Drake said.

"His conduct and his reformation while he was with us was exemplary," Drake said.

Hayes, speaking at the ceremony, told the Portland State University graduates "education is something no one can take from you," according to the Woodburn Independent.

Dao was transferred in November to a state prison in Salem when he aged out of the youth correctional system.

He will leave prison more than seven years into his sentence.

Kitzhaber's clemency requires that he complete three years of probation after his release. The conviction will remain on Dao's record.

Dao's lawyer did not return a call seeking comment.