New DA drops old shoplifting charge in commuted lifer's case

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MEDIA, Pa. (AP) — A newly elected prosecutor has dropped an old shoplifting charge that complicated the release of a Philadelphia man granted clemency from a life sentence.

The case had become a political football among rival prosecutors as the nation debates criminal justice reform.

The state clemency board had voted unanimously to release David Sheppard after he served 27 years for his role in a fatal store robbery. But his expected release last month was held up when a suburban Philadelphia prosecutor filed a detainer over the 1992 shoplifting charge.

Outgoing Delaware County District Attorney Katayoun Copeland, a Republican, said she was upset the homicide victim’s family hadn't been notified about Sheppard's clemency hearing. She wanted to give them time to weigh in, she said.

Her successor, Democrat Jack Stollsteimer, announced Wednesday that he would drop the case. He said the jeans “never left the Springside Mall.”

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who serves as chairman of the clemency board, had championed Sheppard’s release.

“To invoke a 30-year-old shoplifting charge, it just diminishes the whole process,” Fetterman, a Democrat, said last month.

Sheppard, 54, plans to live with a brother in Maryland.

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