Man pardoned by Holcomb expunged of armed robbery conviction

Published: Mar. 23, 2017 at 4:00 PM EDT
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An Illinois man no longer has an armed robbery conviction on his record after a judge's ruling Thursday morning.

You may remember Governor Eric Holcomb pardoned Keith Cooper last month after he served years in prison for an armed robbery in Elkhart County from back in 1997.

On Thursday morning, a judge wiped that conviction off his record.

Despite the decision, there's another obstacle Cooper hopes to overcome.

Cooper and his attorney were also hoping to get rid of his arrest record as well, but that's a move the state doesn't agree with.

Keith Cooper took his first steps into the Elkhart County circuit court since 2005.

"Being back in this courtroom is scary to me," Cooper said. And I know how these- how the judge was. How he treated me here back in 1997 and it still haunts me to this day."

Things started off on the right foot, with Cooper and his attorney easily getting the expungement for his conviction.

"I'm feeling great about the conviction being expunged," Cooper said. "But I'm still a little upset that it won't take that arrest away."

The arrest records are under consideration for now, but the opposition thinks there's no need for it anyway because of a charge for battery he got while he was in jail and he can tell possible employers legally that he hasn't been convicted of a felony.

"So really it doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things," Prosecuting Attorney Vicki Becker said. "It may matter on principle to him, and I certainly recognize that. But, under the law in the state of Indiana, the governor's pardon may not actually cover this."

Cooper says it does matter, especially since he wouldn't have those things on his record if he hadn't been wrongfully convicted in the first place.

"If I happen to be walking down the street, the police pull me over, they run my background, they see 'Well, you have been charged with a robbery.' Then I have to explain to them that I was wrongfully convicted," Cooper said. "And I shouldn't have to go through that."

The prosecution argues that by having the arrest record, it keeps a safer environment for others.

"If something does happen, for example, in the state of Illinois, then law enforcement officers would know 'Hey, there's more to this story. We need to look into this,'" Becker said. "Hopefully he will be a productive member of society, and hopefully he will not be a threat to my community ever again. That's what I care about."

"It's an uphill battle for me," Cooper said. "So, yes, I'm happy that they overturned a the robbery, but I still have this arrest record. And I want that gone too!"

There are a till a lot of steps left in the process, but the next step is to get the forms signed to exponge that conviction. After that, they just have to wait on the judge's decision to see if the arrest record will disappear or not.

Cooper and his attorney also plan on fighting to get the battery charge off the record too, since it happened while he was in jail. But it's not a felony charge, so it's secondary to the arrest and conviction of the armed robbery.