AUGUSTA – Gov. Janet Mills issued a posthumous pardon for Donald Gellers. According to Mills, this is believed to be the first in Maine’s history.
“Today I’m issuing a full and fair pardon of Donald C. Gellers, also known as Tuvia Ben-Shmul Yosef, for his 1969 conviction for the constructive possession of six marijuana cigarettes in Washington county,” Mills said.
Mills said Gellers, along with one other person, were arrested after Gellers filed a land claims lawsuit of behalf of the Passamaquoddy tribe.
They were charged for having marijuana in his home.
Mills said it had been more than 50 years since he was convicted.
Emotions ran deep as the pardon was put into place.
“It’s a long time coming,” Mills said.
After his conviction, Mills said, Geller emigrated to Israel, where he served in the Israeli army. He then came to represent the Native American tribal leaders and tribal members in Maine who could not find counsel, said Mills.
“For his tireless efforts to help others the whole of his life — both for his eight years in Maine and the 35 years since his conviction — I pardon Mr. Geller,” Mills said.
The Passamaquoddy Vice Chief said it is a wonderful day and accomplishment for Gellers.
“He was instrumental in that. It’s unfortunate what happened to him and I do believe, as I heard when I was a child, he was singled out,” said Rena Newell, the Passamaquoddy representative in the Maine Legislature.
“So today is full circle for Mr. Gellers and his family,” she said.