When I scanned the names of people who received pardons from former President Donald Trump on Wednesday morning, one said that it was written in bright red type.
Not Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist. Not Famous Rapper, not Lil Wayne.
This person has no connection with Trump and has never recorded a hip hop album.
His name is Gary Handler. He is my uncle.
Uncle Gary, 67, who pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy charges in 1984, but served jail time, never expected to receive a pardon from Trump.
For good reason: He did not actually make a request to the 45th president.
However, he sent a 90-page pardon application to Obama’s Justice Department in 2016. But it all seemed to be void.
Obama provided some form of pardon to 1,927 people by the end of his second term, but Hendler was not among them.
“I felt that was the end for me,” said Hendler, the host and former addict of the Pennsylvania radio show.
He had zero contact with the Trump administration in the last four years. Nobody even reached out to them to say that someone was sorry on the way.
“I can’t believe it,” Hendler said, using an exterior to emphasize when asked for his response to find out the news.
He said that he left the list out of curiosity after waking up on Wednesday morning.
“It was his last night at the White House. I know he was going to forgive people, ”said Hendler, who voted for Joe Biden. “Do I think I’ll be on the list? It was so remote, it wasn’t even funny.”
Handler’s story began in 1973 when he was a popular recreational drug in the 70s, while attending Temple University in Philadelphia.
Handler was not your average college student. He already got a taste of a fast life while working at the Philadelphia-based Universal Record Company in high school.
“I was 19 years old and I had a Bentley,” he said. “And I was meeting the best-known entertainers in the world: seduction, four tops, Barry Manilow.”
His college roommate introduced him to qualifications, a decade-long battle with drug addiction.
He and three fellow addicts opened a “stress clinic” in the Philadelphia area and hired a psychiatrist to ask anyone. A clinic called Health Center Inc. opened its doors in January 1981.
Hendler’s partners cut ties with him the following month, before either of them made a profit from the business, he said. He roamed the streets the following year before entering rehab in 1982.
Hendler wrote in his 2016 application, “The only good thing about being kicked out of the clinic was that it forced me to face the life I was living.”
“About a year later, in May 1982, I checked myself into a drug treatment program at a Pennsylvania hospital that saved my life.”
The clinic remained open until 1984 when federal agents raided the business and arrested their former colleagues as well as doctors and pharmacists who were working for them.
Handler, whose name was still on the corporate papers, was brought in for questioning. He was calm and about to get married.
“I had changed my life and I saw the clinic’s involvement as a bad chapter of my ‘old life,” he wrote in his pardon application at the Obama White House.
Handler pleaded with the government to plead guilty and cooperate. He was supervised for three years of probation and fined $ 300.
“I’m lucky,” he said in Wednesday’s interview. “If it wasn’t for falling out, I would have gone to jail with the rest of them.”
He became the father of two daughters and started a successful real estate business in the Philadelphia area.
In 1985, they started AA meetings in a synagogue outside Philadelphia, which are still running today. He also hosts a radio show, Clean and Sober Radio, which features musicians, athletes, and political celebrities discussing substance abuse. And in 2015, the Government of Pennsylvania. Tom Wolf appointed Hendler to serve on the Pennsylvania Advisory Council on Drug and Alcohol Abuse.
He read Handler’s description, released by the Trump administration, “mentions several individuals traveling with restraint with their radio broadcasts.”
“His former probation officer noted that Mr. Hendler had become” integral “in the lives of many members of the community who were related to substance abuse.”
Handler, who lives with his wife in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, said FBI agents visited him and conducted interviews with his neighbors and family members in 2016. But he still doesn’t know how his name ended up among those arriving at Trump’s desk.
But his pardon lawyer, Margaret Love, said language in Hendler’s description – that the pardon was supported by former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and the Pardon Attorney’s Office – showed it went through the normal process of flowing out of the Justice Department. On the president’s desk.
“It was completely routine,” said Love, who ran the Pardon attorney’s office during the George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations. “No specific arguments or effects. Out of the 149 grants, only 18 went through the Justice Department process. He is a lucky camper. “
Hendler said he broke down in tears when he saw his name on the apology list on Wednesday morning. He still remembers the last date for consuming drugs or alcohol: May 3, 1982.
“This is the final chapter, the culmination of my life in addiction, and all the terrible things that come with it,” he said.