Laws are not perfect. Apparently, Governor Charlie Crist and the state clemency board felt that was the situation in the case of a Panama City Beach man who has been labeled a sex offender for the past fifteen years. Thirty-four year-old Virgil McCranie says it feels like a weight has been lifted off his shoulders: "It's wide open now. That's the best feeling, that my options are pretty much endless. It's been a long time since that was the case."
McCranie's ordeal began almost sixteen years ago on his eighteenth birthday. He had sex with his girlfriend, Misty, who was fourteen at the time. He says, "It was a mistake, it happened, I've been with her since, I've loved her before then."
Because Misty was underage, McCranie was charged with rape. He struck a deal with the state and plead no contest to lewd and lascivious behavior with a child. As part of the deal, McCranie was forced to register as a sex offender.
Despite all of this, Virgil and Misty married ten years ago and are still together, raising a family. Earlier this summer, he petitioned the state for a pardon. This weekend, the state finally answered his request, granting McCraine a full pardon and removing him from the sex offender registry. When he received his pardon in the mail, he says, "The first letter was saying that enclosed is a certificate of your full pardon, and that's all I got to, and it just practically left my hands."
Some men might be bitter. But, McCranie says he is grateful to Governor Charlie Crist for the pardon: "I have this real strong desire to really do good, because I feel like I was given that extra chance."
While he realizes he cannot make up for lost time, McCraine believes his family is stronger for the ordeal: "I don't think there's anything that could happen to us that we couldn't handle. I'm not worried about any problems that we're going to have or anything like that. I'm lucky. I really am."
He is looking forward to being a normal father to his four children. He says, "Last night, somebody asked my little girl to spend the night and I don't usually let that happen. But, I said you know what, they can spend the night over here. It's the first time I got to say that and it felt good. To me, that's a beautiful way to end it."