California Governor Gavin Newsom has pardoned Sara Kruzan, who fatally shot the man who sex trafficked her when she was a teenager.
In 1995, as a 16-year-old, she was charged as an adult and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Subsequent California governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown reduced her sentence, and she was paroled in 2013 after serving nearly two decades at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla.
In a statement pardoning her, Newsom’s acknowledged Kruzan’s crime and the fact that, since her incarceration, she has taken the necessary steps to “rehabilitate” herself:
Ms. Kruzan committed a crime that took the life of the victim. Since then, Ms. Kruzan has transformed her life and dedicated herself to community service. This act of clemency for Ms. Kruzan does not minimize or forgive her conduct or the harm it caused. It does recognize the work she has done since to transform herself.
Though she has been out of prison for years, Newsom’s pardon removes the conviction from her criminal record, which makes it easier to seek employment and housing.
Kruzan, who is now 44, is far from the only teen victim of sexual abuse to face consequences for acting in self defense. In 2016, Bresha Meadows was charged at the age of 15 with aggravated murder after she shot and killed her abusive father while he was sleeping in their Ohio home. Her mother and siblings confirmed that he had been abusive and her mother called Meadows a hero, but prosecutors still sought to charge her as an adult, which caused national outrage.
Meadows was placed in a juvenile detention center and spent six months in a mental health facility. She was released in 2018, when she was 16, and her record was sealed and expunged when she reached 18.