PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has granted Portsmouth City Councilman Mark Whitaker an absolute pardon following his 2018 conviction on three counts of forgery.

Whitaker, an assistant pastor at New Bethel Baptist Church, was convicted in July 2018 of forging loan documents for $35,000 to demolish a drug-infested apartment complex across from the Baptist church.

He was sentenced in September 2018, but did not receive any jail time. Instead, he was required to pay $7,500 in fines.

The Portsmouth NAACP sent out a statement Tuesday night following the pardon applauding the decision.

Today, we celebrate the absolute pardon of Dr. Mark Whitaker which is long overdue. As we said in 2018, we had serious concerns of egregious civil rights violations that prevented Dr. Whitaker from receiving a fair trial which should have never happened in the first place. Dr. Whitaker and his family were wronged—but today is a first step in righting that wrong and we are thankful for this day for Dr. Whitaker and his family. We also maintain that if anyone involved in Dr. Whitaker’s indictment violated the law, they must be legally held responsible.

In 2019, a Portsmouth NAACP delegation conducted a meeting with the Attorney General’s office pushing for it to review the incidents and circumstances that lead to Dr. Whitaker’s indictment and trial for direct violations of the law. Those who are sworn law enforcement officials have a legal responsibility to uphold the law and not use it for some sense of vigilantism or political purpose. However, when they do, they should be held accountable professionally and within the Court of Law. We renewed our claim again with the Attorney General’s office in 2020 but unfortunately, to date they have not completed that review which we feel is vital to ensuring that no one is above the law.

Today we also continue our call for the Attorney General’s office to complete a review to ensure that if those involved in the inditement broke the law that they still be held accountable.

Portsmouth NAACP

This is breaking news and will be updated.