VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - A lot can be said about second chances.
Not everyone is fortunate enough to receive them, but those that do are tasked with living up to the expectations.
Since February 27, 2020, Travion Blount has been living up to those expectations. Up until that date, he was serving six consecutive life sentences plus 118 years for a crime he committed when he was a teenager.
When he was 15 years old, Blount and two of his friends, both 18, robbed a house party at gunpoint. His attorney, John Coggeshall said they stole $75, some marijuana and two cell phones.
No one was seriously injured, but all three were arrested. The other two men took plea deals and were sentenced to 10 and 13 years behind bars.
Blount was also offered a plea deal, but against the advice of Coggeshall, he turned it down and took the case to trial. A jury found him guilty and he was convicted and sentenced.
"You can’t get it back, so there’s no need to hold grudges anymore," he said.
Years into his sentence, former Governor Bob McDonnell reduced his sentence to 40 years. Former Governor Terry McAuliffe followed that by signing a conditional pardon, reducing his sentence further. What happened to Blount has been called "excessive" and "unjust."
The now 29-year-old was just released in February, and two weeks later, the coronavirus pandemic hit.
"I’m fortunate to come home and have support and to be able to land on my feet like I’m supposed to, but if you don’t have that support, it might not go that way," he said.
The support Blount has now is bountiful. He's living with his advocate, Monique Santiago, who has become family over the past seven years. She even calls him her "bonus son."
"I knew he would come home, but it was just -- I didn’t know when," she said.
She also couldn't predict how much turmoil there would be across the country. With the recent push for criminal justice reform, Blount said he is numb to the unbalanced system.
"[There were] people coming in [the prison who had committed] way harsher crimes than me, and they get let off. So I’ve seen it," he said.
Blount said it was a reality he lived with every day for 13 years.
Yet, by telling his story, Santiago said there can be change.
"We have to come together, the people have to come together, and keep pushing for what’s right and putting pressure [on leaders until there is change for good]," she said.
Now on the other side, Blount said he is focusing on healing, working and family.
He currently has a job at a local recycling plant and is taking online courses to get his certification in fitness training.
"He’s doing it. He’s very focused, he has no other choice because he has a great support system. He will not fail. He is not failing," Santiago said. "He's definitely going to be OK, and I love proving people wrong. I love it, I love it, and he’s doing that."
Blount said he is taking it day by day, but is looking forward to continuing his education, and one day in the future being a mentor for at-risk kids.