BUFFALO, NY (WIVB)- A convicted murderer from Buffalo will not have to serve the remaining two years of his prison term. Michael Crawford is one of 29 inmates granted clemency by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

It was November of 1997 when a man named Akai Block was gunned down in the Shoreline Apartments on Niagara Street. A dispute over concert tickets prompted Michael Crawford to commit murder at the age of ony 17. He has spent the past 20 years in prison and now has been granted clemency by Governor Cuomo. 

St. John Baptist Church on Goodell Street has promised him 20 hours of work per week, according to Pastor Michael Chapman. “We have over 2400 staff, either independent contractors, consultants, loan executives, employees, or volunteers and we can absorb him into the ministry and give him a viable opportunity.” 

The Passport to freedom program at St. John Baptist Church has had success getting other men back on their feet after being released from years in prison. That was a major factor that Erie County District Attorney John Flynn considered when the Governor’s office asked the DA his opinion on clemency for Crawford. Flynn says he first checked with the victim’s mother. “The mother was actually quite spiritual about it.The mother told our office that she ‘s moved on with her life.”

Flynn says she left the decision up to him, so he took severla things into consideration. “He clearly has turned his life around in prison; gotten a GED, gotten bachelor’s degree, gotten a master’s degree, has been a model prisoner for the past 20 years and when you have corrections officers writing on his behalf, that went a long way as well.”

Sometime before January 20, Crawford will be free, and be welcomed back into the arms of the church he attended as a teen.

“We haven’t changed,” said Pastor Chapman. “You can sometimes leave home, when you come back home it’s still the same. Things are the same. We have values, morals, ethics and we don’t condone certain behavior. So he knows what’ll be expected of him.