GRAND RAPIDS (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder has refused to reduce the life sentence of a Grand Rapids man who was a 16-year-old getaway driver in a store robbery that ended with the fatal shooting of a cashier.
Saulo Montalvo, now 35, has spent nearly 20 years in prison. He has a strong record behind bars and his request for a commutation was supported by the victim's relatives and the Kent County judge who ordered a mandatory no-parole sentence in 1996.
But Snyder rejected the request for a shorter sentence after the Michigan parole board, which screens all cases, said a commutation had "no merit," The Grand Rapids Press reported Wednesday.
"I thought Saulo's submission was the strongest I'd ever done," said his attorney, Margaret Raben.
There was no explanation from the governor or the parole board, which operates within the state Corrections Department.
"It's an extreme measure to undo a life sentence," department spokesman Chris Gautz said.
Montalvo has accepted responsibility, although he never left the car during the robbery at the Beer Kooler. The victim's family wrote letters urging his release. So did former state Rep. Joe Haveman, R-Holland, and former Kent County Judge Dennis Kolenda.
Montalvo's participation in the crime was limited and "the result of a very poor but typically teenage immature compromise," Kolenda said.
Montalvo has developed a Christian ministry in prison.
"The only reason I can think of to keep Mr. Montalvo in prison is that he is such an asset to the healthful life of the facility," Haveman said. "But that is a perverse incentive and a terrible reason to keep a man incarcerated."
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