Gov. Nixon: Sentence for MO man serving life for pot now include - KCTV5

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Gov. Nixon: Sentence for MO man serving life for pot now includes possibility of parole

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JEFFERSON CITY, MO (KCTV) -

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has changed the sentence for a man serving life for pot to now include the possibility of parole.

The announcement was made along with Nixon's granting of pardons to five non-violent offenders Friday.

“In the case of the commutation, my action provides Jeff Mizanskey with the opportunity to demonstrate that he deserves parole,” Nixon said.

Mizanskey was the topic of a KCTV5 investigation.

He was convicted on a charge stemming from Pettis County in 1996 for possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver/distribute.

What is now a Motel 6 in Sedalia was a Super 8 in 1993. It's where police set up a sting operation and busted Mizanskey and a friend with pounds of marijuana. It was his third strike for pot.

Because of Mizanskey's three marijuana felonies, he was sentenced as a persistent offender under the laws in effect at the time to a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Mizanskey has spent the last 20-plus years in prison.

KCTV5's investigation showed that Missouri law allows sentences of life without parole for people with three felony drug convictions. Police say the Sedalia man conspired to sell 6 pounds of pot to a dealer connected to Mexican drug cartels.

Supporters of Mizanskey's clemency delivered a petition with nearly 370,000 signatures to the governor's office in 2014.

“I hope and prayed every day... We've been picking up more and more steam and more and more people get behind us and there's so many people to thank that helped out,” said Chris Mizanskey, Jeff's son.

KCTV5 News investigative reports Eric Chaloux went behind bars to the Missouri prison where Jeff Mizanskey is serving his life sentence in 2014.

"I never figured a guy would get a life sentence for marijuana, let alone life without," Jeff Mizanskey said. "I thought life without was for violent crimes, people who really needed to be in prison."

Jeff Mizanskey is the only person serving life without parole for the non-violent offense in the state.

"I'm not here to discuss guilt or innocence, my main concern is why am I treated differently than anyone else?" he said. "I believe it is an unfair sentence."

He has missed a lot in 21 years, like his son becoming a man and having children of his own.

"So many family additions and so many people in the family that's come along after he's been there that he don't even know yet. Heck, when he went there, there was no internet,” Chris Mizanskey said.

For 21 years, Chris Mizanskey, 37, has been trekking an hour east to visit his father behind bars.

"Back then there was no hope. He got life without parole and that was it then," Chris Mizanskey said.

The governor's commutation changes the sentence to now include the possibility of parole, effective immediately.

“There's no words to describe it man. It's going to be an amazing day, an amazing day," Chris Mizanskey said of the new possibilities.

Jeff Mittlehauser, the prosecutor who dealt with Jeff Mizanskey's case in 1996 said he can't comment because he is now an associate judge for the county.

The group Show-Me Cannabis said in a statement that he's been a model prisoner during his 21 years in custody:

“Mr. Mizanskey has never been convicted of any crimes other than relatively small marijuana offenses. He was sentenced for his third marijuana felony to a term of life without the possibility of parole. If Governor Nixon had not taken this action, Mr. Mizanskey would have died in prison.

"This is wonderful news for Jeff Mizanskey and his family and for everyone in our state who believes in justice. I commend Governor Nixon for taking this action," said Dan Viets, who represented Mizanskey along with attorney Tony Nenninger.

Jeff Mizanskey must now wait until his case can be heard by the Missouri Board of Probation and Parole.

Copyright 2015 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.

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