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Saffo says 2011 apology not about Wilmington 10 guilt or innocence

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- A member of the Wilmington 10 made a special delivery to the governor's office in Raleigh today. He and other members of the group want the governor to pardon them for years spent in prison before having their convictions overturned.

Wilmington 10 members are hoping that a petition with thousands of signatures will help Gov. Bev Perdue grant them pardons. But the group also has something else up their sleeves.

Wilmington 10 member Willie Earl Vereen and a group of supporters arrived at Perdue's office with 14,000 petition signatures. But the names on paper are not their only ammunition in their fight for pardons. The group also gave a Perdue staffer a DVD with video of Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo

"I think that it is appropriate that the City of Wilmington recognize this moment in our history," the video shows Saffo telling a 40th anniversary commemoration of the Wilmington 10 at UNCW in 2011. "The people that were taken into custody, and were eventually tried, were done an injustice, a tremendous injustice by our judicial system, Snd obviously the state of North Carolina and Gov. (jim) Hunt obviously felt that way, and commuted those sentences.

"It was a very tough time in our community, and I think it's only appropriate that we recognize those folks and apologize to those folks for the injustice that was done to them during this time in 1971. There were some very tough times here."

Supporters of the Wilmington 10 think Saffo's apology is proof enough they deserve pardons.

Saffo does not agree.

He says his words were taken out of context and does not feel use of the video is fair. Saffo told WWAY by phone today he was commenting on the length of the Wilmington 10's prison sentences. He says he was not commenting on their innocence or guilt.

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