RNC 2020: Who is Jon Ponder? Trump pardons bank robber-turned-activist ahead of GOP speech

Ponder, a three-time convicted felon, was granted pardon by Nevada Board of Pardons for state crimes in 2020 and Trump's action clears a federal bank robbery charge from his record

                            RNC 2020: Who is Jon Ponder? Trump pardons bank robber-turned-activist ahead of GOP speech
Donald Trump and Jon Ponder (Getty Images)

POTUS Donald Trump announced a full pardon for convicted bank robber-turned activist Jon Ponder on August 25 ahead of the Republican National Convention 2020. Announcing this in a taped video at the White House, Trump said, "He has created one of the most successful reentry programs, Hope For Prisoners, in Las Vegas. Hope for prisoners is a movement that began as a dream, in a tiny prison cell, and is now making a difference in the lives of thousands, truly bringing hope that there is an opportunity and a community that is waiting and willing to offer them a second chance."

Ahead of the second night of the convention, the president described Ponder's story as "a beautiful testament to the power of redemption". He continued turning to Jon Ponder in the video, "Jon you have done incredible work. All of Las Vegas, Nevada and every place in this country is very proud of the job you have done."

According to New York Post, Ponder responded to the pardon and said, "Today, praise God, I am filled with hope. A proud American citizen who has been given a second chance. My transformation began in a prison cell, while I found myself a three-time convicted felon facing yet another sentence. I gave my life to Jesus." Mentioning how he was helped in his journey he said as reported in Fox News, "First person to help me was actually the FBI agent who arrested me, Rich Beasley. He is now a dear friend. My hope for America is that all people regardless of race, color, class or background will take advantage of the fact that we live in a nation of second chances."

Independent reported that Ponder, who was scheduled to speak at the second night of the Republican event, was sent to federal prison after robbing a bank. He later turned to religion and founded his non-profit organization in 2009, before he was granted clemency by the Nevada Pardons Board earlier this year. As per New York Post, Ponder is now the founder and CEO of HOPE for Prisoners, Inc. in Las Vegas, and helps other former prisoners rejoin the society. Here’s a look at his journey. 

Who is Jon Ponder?

The American convicted bank robber-turned-activist, Ponder, was born and raised in New York where he got involved in gangs, got addicted to drugs and alcohol and was arrested for the first time at the age of 12 as stated by Hope For Prisoners. He spent over 20 years in and out of custody for crime reportedly ranging from assault to other robberies as per Information Cradle.

About his last crime that happened in 2004, Information Cradle states that Ponder was arrested after a drug-and-alcohol-fueled armed bank robbery that sent him to federal prison. It was during his time in federal lock-up that Ponder found God. Hope For Prisoners mentions that he spent his entire time in prison educating himself, learning and growing and preparing himself for the day he would return home. After having faced a 23-year sentence in federal prison, he was released and later founded a social service organization called ‘Hope For Prisoners’ in 2009. The organization involves job training, mentorship and counseling and has reportedly supported over 3,100 men and women re-entering society post-prison.

Ponder's journey is being seen as inspirational by many on the internet. However, many questioned whether he should be endorsing a candidate for president while being identified as the founder and CEO of Hope for Prisoners. Journalist Kenneth P Vogel tweeted, "JON PONDER's story is inspirational. But should he be endorsing a candidate for president while being identified as the founder & CEO of Hope for Prisoners, which — as a 501(c)(3) non-partisan non-profit group — is barred from participating in partisan politics?"


Another asked, "You're saying he personally can't endorse anyone? Why is the press so afraid of speech?"


Some said his pardon was well deserved. "Jon Ponder has done wonders for the Las Vegas community as the founder of Hope for Prisoners, an organization that helps the formerly incarcerated get back on their feet and fill jobs across the valley Well deserved pardon by @realDonaldTrump." 


Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich concurred, "Jon Ponder's story is absolutely incredible."


If you have a news scoop or an interesting story for us, please reach out at (323) 421-7514