Anti-war fugitive talks about life after pardon
Jan. 22, 2001
By FOSTER KLUG Associated Press Writer
PHOENIX (AP) -- Howard Mechanic, who spent three decades using an alias and
running from his past as a Vietnam War-era fugitive, said it feels good to
have his name back now that he's received a full pardon.
"It's a real freedom," Mechanic said during a Monday press conference.
Mechanic was released from jail on Saturday after President Clinton
pardoned him among 139 others just before leaving office.
Mechanic spent the past year in prison serving out a 1972 sentence he fled
for participating in Vietnam War protest. After he turned himself in to
authorities in February 2000, he also faced subsequent charges of failing
to report to prison and giving false information to get a passport.
The pardon cleared Mechanic of all the charges.
"For 28 years I couldn't feel free to open up without controlling myself,"
Mechanic said during a Monday press conference. "It's sort of humbling to
think maybe I was the last prisoner of the Vietnam War ... Hopefully I've
gotten over it. I've had to carry it around for thirty years."
In May 1970, the night after Ohio National Guardsmen shot and killed four
students during a protest at Kent State University, the 22-year-old
Mechanic was one of about 1,000 students protesting at Washington
University in St. Louis.
A single witness said Mechanic threw a cherry bomb at firefighters working
to put out a blaze on campus.
Mechanic denies seeing or touching a cherry bomb that day.
No one was hurt by the powerful firecracker, but Mechanic received a
five-year sentence and was the first person convicted under a tough new
While out on bond, Mechanic fled Missouri, left behind his family and
friends and began a new life.
"It was a mistake my being charged in the first place," Mechanic said.
"I just had to try to play the cards I was dealt the best I could."
For 28 years, he lived as Gary Tredway, a successful businessman and social
activist in Scottsdale, an upscale Phoenix suburb. Mechanic's past caught
up with him last year when he ran for Scottsdale City Council and his true
identity was discovered.
"I have regrets about having to live a life where I had to lie about who I
was," Mechanic said. "But the things I did as Gary Tredway were things I
wanted to do."
He said that last week was particularly hard. He waited "on pins and
needles" for the pardon.
"This will definitely change my future," Mechanic said. "It puts me in a
position to be a full citizen and not a criminal."
Mechanic says he spent much of his time in jail writing a book about his
experience. The last chapter is called, "Free Howard Mechanic," and details
the efforts his friends, some of whom he hadn't talked to in 30 years, made
to get him out of jail.
"It was a good cathartic experience to get these things out on paper I'd
been carrying around with me," he said.
Mechanic isn't ruling out a future in politics, but said he wants to get
his two businesses back up and running before making any plans.
"I'm not going to be hiding away from people," he said. "I'm just going to
do what I feel is right and keep working for what I think is best for society."
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