11-year cancer patient seeks clemency from prison sentence for marijuana possession
Gov. JB Pritzker is expected to consider an 11-year cancer patient’s petition to receive a pardon or have his four-year prison sentence commuted.
On May 30 Thomas J. Franzen, 37, of Montgomery pleaded guilty to felony possession of more than 5,000 grams of marijuana – he had 42 pounds of THC-infused chocolates shipped to his home.
The remaining counts against Franzen were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.
Pritzker’s press secretary Jordan Abudayyeh confirmed that the governor will “review that petition” filed by Franzen’s attorney, David Camic.
Camic said his client has gone down from 140 pounds to a little more than 110 pounds since his incarceration at Stateville Correctional Center near Joliet began on June 18.
“We’re hoping that Gov. Pritzker favorably considers the petition,” Camic said. “He’s not getting all his medication to treat his cancer. It’s particularly sad since Judge (Clint) Hull went out of his way to ask the Department of Corrections to give Mr. Franzen the medication in a court order that was entered the day of the plea.”
An email to a state spokeswoman asking if Franzen was getting all the medications he was supposed to receive was not immediately answered late Friday.
“A fair and compassionate reading of the history both of this case and Mr. Franzen’s health suggest that his release as soon as possible would serve the interests of justice,” according to Camic’s petition.
Franzen pleaded guilty to the offense of importing cannabis edibles from an unauthorized seller, but “his crime was motivated by an attempt to mitigate his pain and symptoms through the use of cannabis,” the petition stated.
“His use became more regular due to the pain and discomfort resulting from the surgeries and ongoing medical care,” according to the petition. “His medical need to use cannabis is verified and supported by the fact that he was granted a medical use card.”
Camic’s petition noted that the charge Franzen pleaded guilty to is a probational offense.
“However, the prosecution would not agree to a sentence of probation,” Camic’s petition stated. “The guy had candy and chocolate bars. He’s not a robber or a murderer.”
In a news release at the time of Franzen’s June 7 sentencing, Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon stated that the amount of product in Franzen’s possession showed that he was a drug dealer.
“In recognition of the seriousness of Mr. Franzen’s medical condition, our office reduced a 12-year mandatory minimum sentence to four years, of which he is required to serve only two years. We did this in spite of evidence that proves that Mr. Franzen is a drug dealer,” McMahon stated in the release. “The marijuana-laced product found at Mr. Franzen’s home was not purchased from a medical marijuana business, and the amount he purchased far exceeds what would be used for personal consumption and is evidence that he is a drug dealer.”
Camic’s petition recounted the details of when Franzen’s testicular cancer was first diagnosed while he was in high school in 1998.
During his junior and senior year at Aurora Central Catholic High School, Franzen was in and out of the hospital. But with support from his principal and fellow students, he was able to keep up his homework and graduate in 2001, according to Camic’s petition.
“The onslaught of testing ultimately revealed that the cancer had spread to his abdomen, lungs, through the lymph nodes and into his esophagus, affecting his voice box,” the petition stated.
After chemotherapy treatments were exhausted, Franzen was entered into an experimental cancer program at Indiana University Medical Center, the petition stated.
“Thomas had the tumor removed, in the process losing his left kidney … his appendix, gall bladder and parts of his liver,” in a 17-hour surgery, the petition stated.
The tumor in his abdomen was nearly 10 pounds, the petition stated.
Even after subsequent surgeries and treatments, Franzen’s cancer re-emerged “with active cancer cells growing on dead cells,” resulting in more surgeries and ongoing medical treatment, the petition stated, the latest in 2015 for cancer in his remaining kidney.