James “Rusty” Tramel, the former Santa Barbara prep school student convicted 21 years ago for his part in the brutal stabbing murder of a homeless man, gained his freedom this week after Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger chose not to oppose his parole. Schwarzenegger, who blocked Tramel’s release in the past, accepted the recommendation of the state parole board, whose members were impressed by Tramel’s transformation behind bars. In recent years, Tramel was ordained an Episcopal minister, became engaged to be married – his fiancée was also a minister – and secured a post with a parish near Berkeley. After the murder, Santa Barbara became the flashpoint of a major homeless-rights campaign. Homeless advocates wore pins bearing the last words of the victim: “No, my friend.”

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