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Chanting for the Missouri Senate to approve Medicaid expansion, members of the Missouri Faith Voices and a number of faith communities gathered supporters at the Capitol in Jefferson City, MO (AP Photo / The Jefferson City News-Tribune, Julie Smith)

Chanting for the Missouri Senate to approve Medicaid expansion, members of the Missouri Faith Voices and a number of faith communities gathered supporters at the Capitol in Jefferson City, MO (AP Photo / The Jefferson City News-Tribune, Julie Smith)

By Celeste Bott St. Louis Post-Dispatch

JEFFERSON CITY • Gov. Jay Nixon on Friday granted pardons to clergy members prosecuted for trespassing after a protest in the Missouri Senate led lawmakers to suspend session.

The protesters had been calling for Medicaid expansion, and they were arrested by Capitol police in 2014 after refusing to leave the Senate gallery. 

Typically, charges for these kind of political demonstrations are dropped or not pursued by prosecutors, making their ultimate jury trial and conviction unusual.

Sixteen of the 22 members prosecuted applied for executive clemency. The remaining six found guilty said they wanted the conviction to stay on their records.

The pardons announced Friday round out a total of 110 acts of clemency granted by the departing governor – 106 pardons and four commuted prison sentences.

In his eight years as chief executive, Nixon, a Democrat, has granted more pardons than any other governor in the past 30 years, according to the Associated Press.

His second and final term ends Monday, when Republican Gov.-elect Eric Greitens is sworn into office. 

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