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Utah man overcomes prison past, graduates from BYU law school

Ben Aldana Photo courtesy of BYU

PROVO — A Utah man who spent six years in federal prison on drug charges is graduating from BYU’s law school Friday.

“People can change. They need the opportunity to change,” Ben Aldana told KSL Newsradio.

Aldana was sentenced in 2004. He says he was talking to a counselor about what he wanted to do after his sentence, and he mentioned he wanted to help other people, and he felt like he should go to law school.

The reactions he got were discouraging at first.

“It’s hard, and I had to have a lot of help from a lot of people, but other people’s willingness to share similar stories gave me the confidence that I could do this,” he said.

Aldana says Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School gave him a chance when other schools would not.

“I am very grateful that BYU gave me the opportunity,” he said, “because there were a lot of law schools that I’m guessing just rejected my application when they got to the criminal record.”

Aldana says people who have criminal records are often discouraged from seeking opportunities, and others often hesitate to offer those opportunities.

He spent two summers during law school working as a public defender in New York.

“I made a lot of changes, and I worked hard. I’ve had a lot of help from a lot of people, and I want to go to work as a public defender,” Aldana said.

And he has a job ready at the Utah Public Defender Office if he passes the Utah State Bar exam.

“That job possibility wouldn’t have happened if I had not come to law school at BYU,” Aldana said.

After graduation from BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School, Ben Aldana, left, will work as a public defender for  Utah County with two of his classmates, Mary Mottaghian and Bryson King, right. Photo courtesy of BYU.

In the video below provided by BYU, Aldana discusses an experience he had with Judge Benson.