Attorney: Cancer patient in prison might die while awaiting clemency decision

  • Thomas J. Franzen

    Thomas J. Franzen

Updated 11/16/2019 9:44 PM

The health of a 37-year-old cancer patient continues to decline after he was sent to prison for having 42 pounds of THC chocolates mailed to his Montgomery home.

Thomas J. Franzen faced a minimum of 12 years on cannabis trafficking charges; he eventually pleaded guilty in Kane County court to a reduced felony charge and was sentenced to the minimum four years in June 2019.


The attorney for Franzen, who has testicular cancer that spread to his kidneys and other areas of his body, argued Oct. 9 in Chicago for clemency or a pardon before the Illinois Prisoner Review Board. Gov. J.B. Pritzker's office has not commented on when, or if, he will consider action.

"The family is hoping the governor shows the same compassion for Mr. Franzen that he has for the poor and addicted," said attorney David Camic. "The collective fear is that Mr. Franzen dies waiting for mercy."

Franzen was arrested in February 2014 after authorities intercepted a package containing some 430 THC-infused chocolate bars. Franzen had a medical marijuana card at the time, but he possessed way more cannabis than allowed under state law.

According to an email from Michael Franzen, his son was placed on a medical hold two days after the clemency hearing, has pain when urinating and fears he has a lump on his other testicle.

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"He has not been provided any of his breathing medications and has not had any medications since being placed on medical hold," read part of the email. "He has had a loss of feeling in his hands and feet during and after work detail. He had flu and cold symptoms with his reduced immune system."

Since Franzen's incarceration, nearly 3,000 people have signed a petition on calling for Pritzker to commute the sentence.

Jordan Abudayyah, a Pritzker representative, wrote in an email that "the case is going through the clemency process and a decision has not been made." Abudayyah did not respond to additional phone messages or emails inquiring if Pritzker had knowledge of Franzen's case.

Calls and emails this past week to Jason Sweat, the spokesman for the Illinois Prisoner Review Board, and Lindsey Hess, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Corrections, were not returned.

Franzen can have his prison sentence cut in half for good behavior. He is tentatively scheduled to be paroled June 7, 2022.

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