A Santa Barbara County man serving a sentence of 25 years to life for murder was one of 26 California prison inmates who were granted clemency by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday.
The governor’s office had been considering the move before the coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak, but acknowledged that the virus factored into Newsom’s decision.
Kristopher Michael Blehm of Lompoc had his sentence commuted after being incarcerated for 12 years and will be released on parole.
Blehm and Joe Rodriguez Gastelum Jr. were convicted on Dec. 3, 2009, in Santa Barbara County Superior Court of the 2006 murder of Kenneth Sosa in Lompoc.
Gastelum, who fatally shot Sosa, was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison. Blehm was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
Blehm provided Gastelum with the gun used and was in the car with Gastelum at the time of the killing.
Blehm, 22, at the time of the crime, is now 35.
The commutation of sentence document signed by the governor states: “Mr. Blehm has dedicated himself to rehabilitation. Mr. Blehm has maintained a perfect disciplinary record in prison. He earned his GED and participated in extensive self-help programming. He has resided in the Progressive Programming Facility. Mr. Blehm currently participates in New Life K9s, a service dog training program. Mr. Blehm was commended for his work by a correctional lieutenant.”
Blehm was one of 10 inmates convicted of homicide who were granted clemency. Gov. Newsom commuted the sentences of 21 inmates and granted pardons to five others.
“In addition to the public safety and justice factors that the governor normally considers when reviewing clemency cases, he also considered the public health impact of each grant, as well as each inmate’s individual health status and the suitability of their post-release plans, including housing,” Vicky Waters, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office, wrote in a press release.
In the commutation document, the governor wrote: “Mr. Blehm participated in a serious crime that took the life of Mr. Sosa. Since then, Mr. Blehm has committed himself to his rehabilitation. I have carefully considered and weighed the evidence of Mr. Blehm’s positive conduct in prison, the fact that he was a youthful offender, and his good prospects for a successful community re-entry. I concluded that Mr. Blehm is ready to be released on parole.”