He’s Doing 20 Years for Meth. Could Weed Legalization Set Him Free?

A St. Charles man drew a long sentence as a “prior and persistent” offender, but his prior offense has now been expunged

click to enlarge 2011 booking for Kurt Usry.
Courtesy St. Charles County Jail
2011 booking for Kurt Usry.

A St. Charles man who is imprisoned on meth-related charges is hoping that Missouri's new weed laws might allow him to get out before serving his entire 20-year sentence.

In 2012, when a judge handed down that long sentence to Kurt Usry, 42, convicted of possessing a "shake and bake" meth lab, he was treated as a prior and persistent offender. That status makes Usry ineligible for parole, meaning he has to serve the full two decades.

Before his conviction for possessing a miniature meth lab in a two-liter bottle, Usry had been convicted of cocaine possession and selling marijuana.

But that latter conviction has now been expunged under Amendment 3, which legalized marijuana in Missouri. So Usry and his attorney, Brian Cooke, argued in court filings last Monday that Usry should be resentenced, not as a prior and persistent offender but merely as a prior offender. Removing that "persistent" designation would make Usry eligible for parole.

"No one that I'm aware of has tried this before," Cooke tells the RFT. He says that Usry actually came up with the idea himself researching Missouri's new marijuana laws in the prison law library, and then he contacted Cooke.

The motion to be resentenced was filed in St. Charles County, the jurisdiction where Usry was originally convicted. "I think the judge will sign off on it, no problem, and then boom, we send that paperwork off to DOC and he gets paroled, hopefully immediately," Cooke says. However, if that doesn't happen, then the request will have to work its way through appellate courts, which can take years.

Cooke says that he met with Usry last week, and Usry said that the now-expunged marijuana conviction was for selling $40 worth of weed to an undercover cop. While locked up, Usry said he completed a number of programs including vocational classes and was even at one point told that if he completed a 180-day intensive drug treatment program he would be let out of prison. However, after he completed the program, the prison officials realized Usry was parole-ineligible, and he remained incarcerated.

Cooke says that he believes the 20-year sentence was harsh to begin with. Usry's meth "lab" was a bottle which yielded only a few grams of the drug for personal use.

When Usry was 19, he pleaded guilty to one charge of aggravated stalking. In 1999, Usry was a passenger in the car with an older man who was driving and ran two teenagers off the road in St. Charles, killing them. Usry was charged because he has previously made threatening phone calls to one of the victims' houses.

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About The Author

Ryan Krull

Ryan Krull is a staff writer for the Riverfront Times. Find him on Twitter @ryanwkrull
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