INDIANAPOLIS — An Elkhart man who was sentenced to 45 years in prison for cocaine possession may start parole early by order of the governor.

Berto Dooley, 40, has less than two years left on the portion of his sentence that must be spent in prison and is projected to start parole in July 2021, according to the executive order signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb Wednesday.

Dooley was convicted in 2003 of cocaine possession with intent to deliver, a Class A felony, and of being a habitual substance offender.

He remarked at his sentencing that “there was no evidence.” He filed an appeal shortly after sentencing, though the state appellate court upheld his conviction, and he later sought some form of post-conviction relief from the local court.

Elkhart County Circuit Court Judge Terry Shewmaker declined to grant a sentence modification, but said he would consider alternative placement in the future in light of Dooley’s “substantial educational and other accomplishments” while serving time in the Indiana Department of Corrections.

In his clemency order, Holcomb pointed to Dooley’s active efforts to better himself while incarcerated. Those include completing his GED, obtaining an associate’s degree in biblical studies and a bachelor’s degree with honors in organizational management.

Dooley also worked to assist other offenders by being a mentor and a tutor to others trying to earn a GED. He has been allowed to work since his transfer to a short term offender facility in May 2017, and has done jobs for state government including the Indiana Archives and Records Administration and the Department of Administration.

The order notes that Dooley “has earned praise as a motivated, responsible and reliable employee from those who have supervised him” and that his “request for clemency is supported by family, friends and public officials who have witnessed the transformation... over the years.”

A commutation of his sentence was unanimously recommended by the Indiana Parole Board after a careful review of his case. Under Holcomb’s order, Dooley must successfully complete six months of home detention under the IDOC and then, if the Parole Board determines he warrants release, he may be out on parole.

If Dooley fails to complete home detention or violates the terms of his parole, then he must complete his sentence with the IDOC.

Holcomb previously issued a pardon for a former Elkhart man who was convicted of robbery resulting in serious injury 20 years ago. The February 2017 order allowed 48-year-old Keith Cooper to wipe the verdict, which the governor called wrongful, off his record. 

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