Kelly, whose late father was also a minister, was a drug dealer with a rap sheet when he was convicted of aggravated robbery in 1979 and sentenced to five to eight years in prison. The pardon, he says shows that people can repent after having made mistakes and go on to make something of their lives.
"We talk about milestones. This marks another milestone," he says. "Hopefully it sets a precedent for others who have a background and come from my neighborhood who want to be able to contribute to it instead of tearing it down."
Kelly says he never asked for a pardon. "It's been thirty years, and I've never really tripped over it, never emphasized that I needed to get a pardon."
Ritter, a former prosecutor, said in a statement that "the individuals being pardoned today have demonstrated great remorse, an effort at redeeming themselves from prior criminal acts, and in some cases, significant involvement in their community.
"These cases include circumstances where a guilty plea or conviction has impacted their career, and today's pardon will allow them to move forward as a productive member of the workforce, of their community and of society," he added.
Kelly says he plans to go the cemetery where his father, who died earlier this year, is buried today to share this with him.
The following people received full pardons from Governor Bill Ritter today:
Ian Starr Aneloski, who pleaded guilty in 1995 to burglary of a dwelling and theft over $15,000.
Carrie Bachofer, who was convicted in 1995 of manufacture or sale of a controlled substance and misdemeanor carrying a concealed weapon.
Jerry Scott Baker, who pleaded guilty in 1990 to disorderly conduct and misdemeanor domestic violence.
John F. Bellamy, who pleaded guilty to assault in 1994 in connection with a domestic-violence case.
Kirk Andrew Crawford, who pleaded guilty in 1984 to possession and sale of a controlled substance.
Jerry Arlen Darnell, who pleaded guilty in 1998 to misdemeanor child abuse.
Raymond Scott Dobson, who pleaded guilty in 1974 to possession of marijuana.
David M. Hashman, who was convicted in 1995 of municipal domestic violence.
Leon Kelly, who pleaded guilty in 1979 to one count of aggravated robbery.
Victoria L. Kent, who pleaded guilty in 1991 to use of a controlled substance.
Douglas Steven Mosier, who pleaded guilty in 1992 to criminal trespass.
Robert W. Pasaol, who pleaded guilty in 1993 to misdemeanor assault.
Jaqueline Ruiz Hernandez, who pleaded guilty in 1998 to theft.
Kevin Louis Simpson, who pleaded guilty in 1999 to three misdemeanors, including assault on a peace officer.
Scott Allen Stadel, who pleaded guilty in 1998 to fraud by check.
Sean Christopher Stearns, who pleaded guilty in 1995 to burglary.
Frederick R. Ursetta, who pleaded no contest in 1986 to criminal attempt to commit theft by receiving.
Terry Lynne Vassios, who pleaded guilty in 1990 to theft.
Michael E. Watts, who pleaded guilty in 1971 to possession of marijuana.
Catherine Zimmer, who pleaded guilty in 1999 to forgery.