A sheriff’s office says a drug suspect once was pardoned by Obama. But was he?

Jerry Gerard Parson

A North Carolina man arrested Tuesday on cocaine and firearms charges told sheriff’s investigators that former President Obama had pardoned him on a cocaine conviction. The sheriff’s office then repeated that tidbit in a news release that was reported in the media.

But it isn’t true.

The Catawba County Sheriff’s Office said a tip led them to the residence of Jerry Gerard Parson, 42, in Conover, resulting in charges of trafficking and possessing cocaine, and of possession of a firearm by a felon.

In a news release, the sheriff’s office said, “Parson was previously convicted of ‘Conspiring to Distribute Cocaine’ in the mid 2000’s and was incarcerated in federal prison for several years before being pardoned by Former President Obama.”

Some media groups then reported the pardon story — but the federal government says it is false.

“The Office of the Pardon Attorney has no record of anyone by that name [Parson] submitting a petition or receiving a pardon by President Obama or any other president,” U.S. Department of Justice spokeswoman Nicole Navas Oxman told The News & Observer on Thursday.

Parson also has never been granted a North Carolina pardon, a spokeswoman with the Governor’s Clemency Office said.

Catawba Capt. Jason Reid told The N&O on Thursday afternoon that the pardon tale came from Parson, and that he included it in the news release after he “was unable to prove or disprove (Parson) was actually pardoned by Obama.”

“When we arrested him Tuesday night, we were having a conversation, and as he was being processed with the magistrate’s office, he tells our drug investigators the story,” Reid said.

Reid acknowledged that he accepted Parson’s story “without spending too much time looking for it,” but said he had reason to believe it based on his history with Parson.

Reid arrested Parson in 2004 on a federal indictment that led to the jail sentence Parson claimed that Obama cut short. Parson’s sentence did end early, about the time Obama was issuing pardons, but Reid said he’s not sure under what circumstances.

“We went with his statement,” Reid said. “If we know his sentence was cut short by several years, two plus two equals four.”