Gavin Newsom requests pardon for award-winning podcaster

The request for Earlonne Woods of “Ear Hustle” was part of the governor’s yearly Easter clemency and parole list.

SACRAMENTO, California — Gov. Gavin Newsom is requesting a full pardon for Earlonne Woods, a renowned podcaster formerly incarcerated at San Quentin who recently inked a documentary deal with actor Morgan Freeman.

In an annual announcement of clemency and parole requests Friday, Newsom granted 37 pardons and 18 commutations, and moved to clear the record of Woods, whose potential life sentence was originally commuted by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2018.

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Newsom plans to file a request to get Woods clemency, but he needs approval from the state Supreme Court to pardon someone who has been convicted of two or more felonies.

In 2017, Woods helped launch the podcast Ear Hustle. The podcast is named for the prison slang for eavesdropping and tells the stories of currently and recently incarcerated people from San Quentin, the state’s oldest and one of its most notorious lockups. Ear Hustle has won multiple journalism awards, received two Peabody nominations and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2020.

Just last week, Deadline broke the news that the podcast had landed a partnership with Freeman’s Revelations Entertainment for an upcoming docuseries.

Woods spent 21 years in prison and now advocates for the repeal of California’s Three-Strikes Law, which resulted in a longer prison term for the Los Angeles native. In 1997 at age 25, Woods was sentenced to 31-years-to-life for attempted robbery. The long stint stemmed from the fact that Woods had two prior convictions from when he was a minor. The robbery was his third strike.

While Woods was released from prison after then-Gov. Brown commuted his sentence, a pardon would take it a step further, exonerating him from the crime and effectively deleting the conviction.

Ear Hustle, and Newsom’s interest in reforming San Quentin, also helped land a 2020 pardon for David Jassy, who produced music for the podcast.

Newsom also commuted sentences for seven people convicted of murder, including Jeffrey Newvine who fatally stabbed his neighbor in 1995 and Elaine Wong, a 73-year-old grandmother who killed someone during a robbery to clear her gambling debt in 1980. A petition for Wong’s release has nearly 7,000 signatures on Change.org.