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Tuesday, October 4, 2022
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Biden Grants Clemency to 78 People

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President Joe Biden | Image by Luca Perra

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Seventy-five people, including six residents of North Texas, have had their prison sentences commuted by President Joe Biden. Another three, one of whom was also from Texas, have been pardoned.

According to a White House news release, all who had their sentences pardoned or commuted were imprisoned for “non-violent drug offenses.” People who are pardoned have their crimes effectively forgiven, while commutation is essentially a sentence reduction.

Individuals with commuted sentences will be allowed to leave prison on April 26, 2023. However, they will be restricted to home confinement for the remainder of their respective sentences and will still serve their terms of supervised release.

The acts of clemency were part of the Biden administration’s acknowledgment of “Second Chance Month,” which was first recognized during the administration of Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump. Trump granted 237 acts of clemency during his four years in the White House, including 143 pardons and ninety-four commutations.

“America is a nation of laws and second chances, redemption, and rehabilitation. Elected officials on both sides of the aisle, faith leaders, civil rights advocates, and law enforcement leaders agree that our criminal justice system can and should reflect these core values that enable safer and stronger communities,” Biden said.

The action is intended to allow people who have been jailed for non-violent crimes and are deemed low-threat to re-enter everyday society. The release noted that those who had their sentences reduced or pardoned “would have received a lower sentence if they were charged with the same offense today, thanks to the bipartisan First Step Act,” the criminal justice reform measure Trump signed into law.

Of the six people from North Texas whose sentences were commuted, Brittany Krambeck of Fort Worth was serving the longest term — 220 months and three years of supervised release. She was sentenced in 2010 for maintaining drug-involved premises and structuring transactions to evade reporting requirements.

Another Fort Worth resident, Nova Neal Finau, was sentenced in 2016 to 140 months in prison and four years of supervised release. She was convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance.

Sharon Louise Boatright of Richardson was serving the second-longest sentence of the six individuals. In 2013, she was sentenced to 190 months in prison and four years of supervised release for possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. Three years later, that sentence was reduced by two months.

Deborah Ann Dodd of Forney was sentenced in 2015 to 140 months in prison and a five-year supervised release. Her 2015 conviction was also connected to methamphetamine distribution.

The final two of the six North Texas individuals were sentenced to 10-year (120-month) terms with 3-year periods of supervised release.

Stephanie Hernandez of Dallas received her sentence after a 2017 conviction for distributing a controlled substance.

Lori Jean Cross of North Richland Hills, convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance, was given her sentence in 2016.

Of the three people awarded pardons for their past crimes, only one is from Texas. Betty Jo Bogans from Houston had no prior criminal record before her 1998 conviction for possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine.

Bogans, who is now 51 years old, was arrested for transporting the crack cocaine for her boyfriend and his accomplice, neither of whom was arrested. She was sentenced to seven years in prison. Since being released, the press release notes that the single mother has remained employed while raising her son.

The commutations and pardons by President Biden mark the first time in his 15 months in office that he’s used his powers of clemency. The actions come after frequent urging from groups supporting criminal justice reform.

In the same press release, the White House also announced new job training measures and grants to help people re-enter society after prison terms.

“Helping those who served their time return to their families and become contributing members of their communities is one of the most effective ways to reduce recidivism and decrease crime,” said Biden.

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