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Gift of clemency lets Leatrice Saffore move ahead with her life: Sneed

Leatrice Saffore was recognized for her commitment adult educaticeremony for Secretary State Jesse White's Adult Literacy Grant Program. Provided photo.

Leatrice Saffore was recognized for her commitment to adult education at a ceremony for Secretary of State Jesse White's Adult Literacy Grant Program. Provided photo.

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Updated: November 19, 2013 6:35AM

The gift of clemency . . .

It’s the story of a second chance.

Last week, Leatrice Saffore, 50, was finally granted the legal right to move forward in her life and move aside the burden holding her back: A criminal history.

In an exclusive interview, Saffore talks about her agonizing six-year wait to erase the mistakes of her past — which ended when Gov. Pat Quinn granted her wish for executive clemency.

“I waited, waited and waited,” she told Sneed.

A soft-spoken woman who now teaches adult literacy, Saffore’s childhood was not without struggle: She almost died when she was little; lost her mother shortly thereafter, and had a teenage pregnancy.

“You have to wait and hope for the best . . . and thank God,” added Saffore, who said she went back to school in 2001 after she was laid off from a job, and eventually worked her way up to earn a master’s degree in theology from Loyola University Chicago.

The clemency granted to Saffore, who is now preparing for a doctorate degree in ministry, gives her permission to go to court to expunge a police record for a felony narcotics conviction from 1993 as well as non-felony convictions for theft, disorderly conduct and possession of a controlled substance.

Although a mandatory disclosure of her felony conviction on job applications was keeping her out of the work force, it did not keep her from moving ahead.

“Since I couldn’t really get the jobs, I poured my energy into more education,” she said.

After she heard from Quinn’s office that her petition had been granted, Saffore’s first phone call was to her daughter, Lakeitha Rodgers, who had never heard the story of her mother’s conviction or her struggle to overcome it.

“I felt protective of her. . . . She didn’t know the extent of my criminal background,” Saffore said.

Six years ago, Saffore petitioned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s office for clemency, but her file got caught in the backlog of requests. (Ironically, Blago is now in jail and awaiting his appeal.)

Finally, with a phone call, the ordeal was over.

“Initially it was a loud shriek, and then . . . as I got thinking about it, I got emotional, very teary about it. It’s been a long time coming,” Saffore said.

In addition to her daughter, Saffore credits Maureen Gillette, a Northeastern Illinois University dean and a mentor; Susan Perez, the executive director of the Tolton Center at the De La Salle Institute, and Beth Johnson, a Cabrini Green Legal Aid lawyer, for giving her the support and references she needed to move ahead in her life.

Quoth Johnson: “Leatrice is a fabulous woman.”

Now when she applies for jobs, Saffore will “not have to explain, not have to justify, she’ll be looked at for the credentials she has, the experiences she has,” Johnson added. “She waited a long time to get the right answer.”


Kim’s bling . . .

In case you missed Tweeterville glowing with the latest Kim Kardashian nonsense, you missed news that her hoopster ex-hubby, Kris Humphries, just auctioned off her 20-carat diamond ring he reportedly bought for $2 million samoleons. His take: a $1,251,000 loss. You do the math. Good for the brain, especially when you read this swill.

I spy . . .

Former Gov. George Ryan stopped by Haray Caray’s Italian Steakhouse for lunch Wednesday . . . ditto Bill Kurtis . . . Mayor Rahm Emanuel came by Harry Caray’s in the evening to attend a fund-raiser for Ald. Carrie Austin . . . and actor Bruce Dern stopped in to Carmine’s for lunch Wednesday.

Sneedlings . . .

Skippy’s back! Legendary Channel 2 reporter/“Perspective” guru Walter Jacobson is back in action, delivering his commentary two mornings a week on the WLS-AM (890) radio show starring Sneed’s old buddy John Kass. . . . Friday’s birthdays: Mike Ditka, 74; Emil Jones Jr., 78, and Jerrod Melman, ageless.

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