When Ronald Lee Foster, 66, of Beaver Falls, tried to apply for a gun permit about two years ago, he was shocked when he was denied because he was a felon.
The retired shift supervisor at Armstrong World Industries had no idea why they would say he had a felony conviction, but then he started thinking about what had seemed like a small offense from almost 50 years ago.
In 1963, then-18-year-old Mr. Foster and 16 of his fellow Marines were stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and only making $82 a month. They wanted a way to come up with some spare change, so they started cutting off the outer lips of pennies and using them as dimes in the vending machines.
Their luck ran out when a Secret Service agent was put in the barracks, Mr. Foster said, probably because the vending company had caught on.
After rounding up everyone involved, they took the Marines before a judge.
"They marched us into the judge and he gave us a one year probation and $20 fine. None of us knew we had a felony at the time," he said.
It was a small punishment with much bigger consequences. The judge charged the men with mutilating coins, which is considered a felony, not a misdemeanor, a fact Mr. Foster discovered 45 years later.
He found a lawyer right away to see if he could get it expunged.
"I didn't feel like having a felony hanging over my head," he said.
But felonies cannot be expunged, so the lawyer came up with the idea to try for a presidential pardon.
"He filled out the paperwork, and then it was just a waiting game after that," he said.
He got the call on Friday that he was one of nine individuals who received