George Alpogianis was on his way to a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert Friday evening when he got a phone call from Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Church of America, who had been watching ABC7 news.
The archbishop conveyed news the Niles man has awaited for years: On Friday afternoon, Gov. Quinn granted Alpogianis a full pardon and expungement of felony crimes committed when he was a teenager.
"I cried," said Alpogianis, 44, who owns Kappy's Restaurant in Morton Grove. "And then I felt a huge sense of relief. I told my son 'I've worked 27 years to correct my wrong and be a better person.'"
The felony became an issue when Alpogianis ran for and was elected to a Niles trustee position in March 2009. He said he had been told by law enforcement that his six aggravated battery convictions for "a party that went bad" when he was a teen in 1984 would be reduced to misdemeanor level after he served probation back then. However, they were still classified as felonies in 2009, forcing Alpogianis to resign the trustee seat. Under Illinois law, felons may not hold elected office.
With the pardon, Alpogianis would be eligible to hold office. However, he would not say Sunday whether he'll run again in next spring's municipal elections, commenting that he has to assess his family and business situation first.
After not being allowed to take office in 2009, Alpogianis hired an attorney to petition the Illinois Prison Review Board to clear his name. He had to write a detailed biography, and he submitted character reference letters from priests, school officials, government officials and people in law enforcement. He also in Springfield in January 2011 for a question and answer session.
In recent years, Alpogianis has been active in starting a Cub Scout Pack and Boy Scout Troop at in Niles, putting up a and donating time and resources to many local charitable causes.
Alpogianis said that having the issue of his teenage transgressions brought up publicly in 2009 was difficult, because he thought he had served his time and put it behind him.
"It was hurtful," he said. "I had a hard time telling my children how to behave when they read all those articles about what I had done. As a son to my mother and father, I'm sure they were hurt by it. I made bad decisions as a teen, and hurt them."
Alpogianis feels grateful to people in the community for being supportive.
"We live in a great community," he said. "The people of our village are so great."
Alpogianis said his family planned to celebrate both the pardon and his grandmother's 98th birthday Sunday night.
"It's a joyous occasion for my whole family," he said.