Correction: Because of reporting errors, a previous version of this story indicated that Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink had approved a pardon for Gerald McCranie, who had been listed as a sex offender. Gov. Charlie Crist, Attorney General Bill McCollum and Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson approved the pardon. According to a spokesman, Sink did not sign the pardon.
Virgil McCranie is ecstatic. After more than a decade of marriage to his “Romeo and Juliet” sweetheart, the stigma of being branded a sex molester has finally been lifted.
The Board of Executive Clemency, comprised of Florida Cabinet members Gov. Charlie Crist, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, Attorney General Bill McCollum and Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson, granted McCranie a full pardon this week after leaving the Panama City Beach resident in limbo after the last clemency meeting in June.
“It sat there for two hours before I opened it,” McCranie said in a telephone interview today.
McCranie, now 34, and his wife Misty, now 28, fell in love when was he was 19 and she was 14. Since then, they’ve raised four children while struggling to make ends meet.
But their story is no fairy tale.
Misty and her father pressed charges against Virgil, accusing him of raping the minor. The rape charge was dropped but he was charged with lewd and lascivious acts against a minor and was sentenced to two years of probation.
That’s when the father of four’s nightmare began, McCranie told the clemency board in June.
He was placed on the state’s sex offender web site and has been unable to hold down a job or attend his daughter’s dance recitals, he said as he and his wife pleaded with the board to grant him a pardon.
The board took his case “under consideration,” leaving the couple in limbo.
The fact that three of the four clemency board members are running for statewide office – Crist for U.S. Senate and Sink and McCollum for governor – added to the pair’s worries.
That changed when they finally opened the letter containing the governor’s executive order and a copy of the certificate of clemency.
“I hadn’t felt that good since I was 19. I felt clean,” McCranie said.
McCranie said he hasn’t been able to hold down a job because of his sex offender status. Now he won’t have to wonder “if it was me not being good enough to do something or just me getting a bad shake from what I did,” he said. “I’m happy.”