Artist, ex-con receives pardon from Gov. Cuomo
A Brooklyn man who spent 12 years in prison is using his artwork to help others avoid doing time, he says.
Anthony Papa, 62, of Brooklyn Heights, was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison on drug charges.
"In 1985, I made the biggest mistake of my life," he says. "And how I got out? I painted my way to freedom."
Papa cleaned his brushes in the toilet of his 6-by-12-foot prison cell. Now, in addition to remaining an artist, he is an anti-drug activist and author.
An image of himself during that incarceration is one of his favorite paintings. It's a self-portrait he painted in prison that later became the cover art of his first book.
And although Papa has been freed from prison on parole, Gov. Andrew Cuomo pardoned him last month. That allows Papa the chance to run for public office, should he want to, or serve jury duty.
"I'm an example of how someone can turn their life around, if given a second chance," Papa says.
And he says he'll use his story to advocate against drugs and prevent others from following his path to prison.
His newest memoir is called "This Side of Freedom."