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

A man, President Joe Biden, in a blue site gestures with his right hand while speaking from a podium.
Ted S. Warren
President Joe Biden speaks Friday, April 22, 2022, at Green River College in Auburn, Wash., south of Seattle. President Joe Biden is announcing that he has granted the first three pardons of his term. In one case he is providing clemency to a Kennedy-era Secret Service agent convicted of trying to sell a copy of an agency file.

Joe Biden granted clemency for the first time in his presidency Tuesday. He focused his attention commuting the sentences of people convicted of low-level, nonviolent drug offenses. Five are from Missouri.

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 – Sikeston, Missouri

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

David C. Frazier – St. Louis, Missouri

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 – St. Louis, Missouri


1. 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).

2. Possession with intent to distribute heroin; possession of heroin in a federal prison (District of Central Illinois).

David L. Zouck – Buffalo, Missouri

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

Biden issues three pardons

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.

As KCUR’s general assignment reporter and visual journalist, I bring our audience inside the daily stories that matter most to the people of the Kansas City metro, showing how and why events affect residents. Through my photography, I seek to ensure our diverse community sees itself represented in our coverage. Email me at carlos@kcur.org.
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