John Bolen – First Offender – Life – Clemency Granted 10/21/20

The CAN-DO Foundation is elated that President Trump has granted clemency to John Bolen so he can be reunited with his wife,  June and son John Bolen as well as the entire family including John’s grandmother who is in her 90s.    John’s case was one of the most egregious cases CAN-DO has ever advocated for. It underscores how unjust our conspiracy laws are with regard to holding a minor participant responsible for the actions of others who are far more culpable within the conspiracy and receive a plea bargain to testify against the low hanging fruit who proceed to trial, and thus, are subject to what we often refer to as the “trial penalty.”  People who exercise their Sixth Amendment right to a trial are subject to harsh mandatory sentencing laws that cooperating individuals can escape from in exchange for testimony against others.  

360 Law featured John Bolen’s case in:

How Courts Could Ease The White House’s Clemency Backlog

CAN-DO worked with journalist RJ Vogt who chose John’s case as the perfect clemency candidate waiting for mercy from President Trump.

DOB: Sept 3
Age: 49
Race: Asian/white
Raised: Palm Bay, Florida
Tried: Southern Florida
Will live: Melbourne, Florida
Charges: Conspiracy to import 5 or more kilos, attempt to import 5 or more kilos, conspiracy to possess 5 or more kilos, possession with intent to possess 5 or more kilos
Trial/plea:  Trial
Sentence:  Life without parole
Sentenced on: 03/05/2007; denied bond, in since August 2006
Served: 13 years
Priors: First time offender
Prison Conduct: No disciplinary infractions
Clemency status:  Submitted again June 11, 2018 (previously denied under Obama initiative March 2017)
Release date:  Never
Institution: FCC Medium, Coleman Florida; previously FCC Penitentiary II, Coleman, FloridAccomplishments:
  • Currently in service to others as a mental health companion and mentor in the BOP’s Skills Program under the guidance of Dr Benitez.  Program is to help those with brain injuries and mental health issues with daily living skills and cognitive change
  • Worked as a suicide companion with current certification and a Challenge Program mentor.
  • Worked in trusted and privileged positions in UNICOR,
  • Vocational tech as a tutor
  • Currently work in commissary as the clerk.
  • Zero disciplinary reports in 12 years
  • Superior programming earning numerous  top level certificates, including, but not limited to:
  • Challenge Program
  • Threshold Program

    John and family on his first boat.

  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Non-residential drug program
  • Culinary Arts
  • Microsoft
  • Auto Cad
  • CDL class
  • Education tutor training
  • Spanish
  • Custodial maintenance
  • Yoga and yoga instructor
  • Creative writing
  • Weight loss clinic facilitator
  • Skills Program mentor training facilitator,
  • Men’s Stop Re-entry Program
  • Multiple recreational classes
According to John:
I’m John Bolen; a Korean-American born and raised in Melbourne, Florida.  I am a non-violent, first-time offender with a life sentence for my role in a conspiracy to smuggle drugs by allowing my boat to be used.  I live in shame, guilt, and sorrow for this terrible mistake I made.   All my life I have been an entrepreneur. At 5 years old, I pulled a wagon full of my toys around the neighborhood to sell them.  In that same spirit, as an adult I owned an automotive detailing and accessories business, a commercial lawn and landscaping business, an outdoor power equipment business and lastly a charter fishing business.  After the 2004 hurricane season devastated the East Coast of Central Florida, my business was struggling financially, and finally after getting the boat repaired and fishing again, I ended up involved in the conspiracy.  I rationalized and justified my behavior, thinking I wasn’t doing anything that bad, I was only allowing my boat to be used while I looked the other way.  I replay this day over and over in my head.  I had options and choices but I lost sight of the value of good honest hard work and instead I compromised my integrity and my honesty.  I regret so badly this terrible mistake I made.  Words truly cannot describe how sorry I am for my actions.

After coming to prison I found myself in the BOP’s residential Challenge Program.  One of the main tenets of the program is the eight attitudes of success, honesty, objectivity, willingness, humility, open-mindedness, gratitude, responsibility, and caring; so simple, yet so life changing.  The irony is that had I embraced and lived these attitudes in the free world, I would have never become involved in criminal activity.  Now, I am in service to others in the BOP’s Skills Program as a mentor and mental health companion for those with mental health issues and brain injuries.  It is rewarding to see others achieve the same personal change and growth that I have.

Upon my release, I look forward to making up for 12 long years away from my wife, son, mother and grandmother.   They have always encouraged me to chase my dreams, and I cannot wait to support them in chasing theirs.  I have great family and financial support that will help make my reentry a success and I also have three standing job offers.

From my heart what I want you to know about me and why I am deserving of clemency is that for a brief moment in my life I got desperate, I was lost, and I made a terrible mistake.  I am so ashamed and disgusted for what I have done to myself, my family, and my community.  I believe that my actions deserved punishment, but I respectfully believe I do not deserve to die within the custody of the BOP for my first and only offense.  Life for me may have been better before prison in terms of freedom, luxuries, opportunity, etc., but because of what I have learned in prison, I am a much better person.  I only hope that I get the chance to prove it.

I made a terrible mistake.  I live in shame and regret for what I did.  I am doing my best to be of service to others and live a life with honesty and integrity.  I cannot undo my past and I am truly very sorry for what I have done.  I do feel I deserved punishment for my actions, but I don’t feel I deserve to die in prison for my bad choices and being a first time and last time offender.
Scroll to top