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Biden's push to reduce sentences for minor drug crimes means freedom for 5 Missourians

Joe Biden speaks in support of U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill in Bridgeton in Oct. 31, 2018
Carolina Hidalgo
St. Louis Public Radio
President Joe Biden, seen in this 2018 photo, granted clemency on Tuesday to five Missourians who were serving long sentences for non-violent drug offenses.

A Blue Springs man and four other Missourians are among the 78 people granted clemency Tuesday by President Joe Biden, his first such act as president.

“Today, I am pardoning three people who have demonstrated their commitment to rehabilitation and are striving every day to give back and contribute to their communities,” Biden said in a press release. “I am also commuting the sentences of 75 people who are serving long sentences for non-violent drug offenses.”

Among those was 46-year-old Paul Lupercio of Blue Springs, who was convicted in 2008 of conspiracy to distribute 1,000 kilograms of marijuana and five kilograms or more of cocaine.

Lupercio was sentenced in the Western District of Missouri to 240 months in prison, with release scheduled for 2025. After Biden’s commutation, Lupercio will now walk free on August 24, but will still have 10 years of supervised release.

Biden said in a statement that he is using April’s designation as national Second Chance Month to grant commutations to people who would have received a lower sentence if they were charged today under the First Step Act, aimed at reducing long federal prison sentences.

Biden also commuted the sentences of four other Missourians, all of whom were convicted of conspiracy to possess or distribute illegal drugs.

Brandon Todd Berry of Sikeston

Offense: Conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of a substance containing methamphetamine (Eastern District of Missouri).

David C. Frazier of St. Louis

Offense: Conspiracy to distribute cocaine; possession with intent to distribute a mixture containing cocaine; maintaining a drug involved premises (Eastern District of Missouri).

Byron James Miller of St. Louis

Offenses: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute crack cocaine; possession with intent to distribute in excess of 500 grams of cocaine (Eastern District of Missouri); and possession with intent to distribute heroin; possession of heroin in a federal prison (District of Central Illinois).

David L. Zouck of Buffalo

Offense: Conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine; distribution of five grams or more of actual methamphetamine (Western District of Missouri).

Biden also issued pardons for three people who have served their terms, saying they have rehabilitated their lives: an 86-year-old former U.S. Secret Service agent charged with attempting to sell a copy of a Secret Service file — a crime he says he never committed; a 51-year-old Texas woman convicted of transporting cocaine for her boyfriend and accomplice, neither of whom faced charges; and a 52-year-old Georgia man convicted for using his pool hall to let pot dealers sell marijuana.

Biden said his administration is applying second-chance opportunities announced earlier this month as part of a comprehensive strategy to combat recidivism and ease re-entry into society. These include expanding job opportunities, job training, veteran support and loans to formerly incarcerated people.

“America must offer meaningful opportunities for redemption and rehabilitation to empower those who have been incarcerated to become productive, law-abiding, members of society, and reduce crime and make our communities safer,” Biden said.

Carlos Moreno