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MODESTO — A Modesto man did not think he would be able to be home for Christmas, but, as he says, a “Christmas miracle” allowed him a chance to spend the holiday with his wife and daughter.

You can tell by a hat he likes to wear, with “Jesus” stitched across it, that faith means everything to Mony Neth.

“God taught me a lesson that he’s always with me and I’m never alone, and for me not to doubt him,” Neth said.

That doubt crept in for Neth last weekend when a felony from over two decades ago left him sitting in Texas, waiting to be deported.

“So, I was about two days away to get on that plane to Cambodia,” Neth said.

Neth served nearly two years in prison for weapons, gang and possession of stolen property charges in 1995 and had remained trouble free since, until he was arrested in October during an immigration sweep.

“There are probably people that are going to still label me as a thug, but I just want to tell them that today I’m not the same person as I was before,” Neth said.

Faith in God allowed Neth to persevere through two months of uncertainty, but it was Governor Jerry Brown’s pardoning of Neth earlier this month that helped enable him to be home for Christmas after he was unexpectedly released from prison Friday.

“It is a miracle. It’s what I call a divine coincidence that I’m here on Christmas,” Neth said. “Also, our church theme this week, today, is ‘welcome home,’ so it’s amazing. It’s a miracle.”

It’s a Christmas present Neth and his family won’t find under their tree, but it’s the present they wanted the most.

The pardoning does not mean Neth is completely in the clear, there are still legal matters that he has to deal with, including the possibility of reopening his case from 1995.

Governor Brown’s 132 pardons and 19 commutations were announced Saturday. Neth’s pardon reads in part:

“Mony Neth has complied with the provisions of Sections 4852.01 to 4852.2, inclusive, of the Penal Code of California, which provide a procedure whereby a person may, after completion of their sentences, seek restoration of the rights of citizenship, and apply for a pardon. He has obtained from the Superior Court of the State of California in and for the County of Stanislaus, an order dated July 28, 2017, evidencing that since his release from custody, he has lived an honest and upright life, exhibited good moral character, and conducted himself as a law-abiding citizen. By granting the Certificate of Rehabilitation, the court has recommended he be granted a full pardon.”