On June 24, 2020, a judge in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia granted a motion for compassionate release filed on behalf of an indigent client due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The motion was granted over the government’s opposition. The client, who is elderly with underlying health conditions, was serving a 30-month sentence for a non-violent drug offense and had been waiting for months in a local jail after being sentenced in early 2020 to be transported to a Bureau of Prisons facility closer to his California home. But the pandemic has has curtailed prisoner transports.
While no COVID-19 cases have been identified at the facility where the client was incarcerated, the client’s age and underlying health conditions make him particularly susceptible to a negative health outcome if he contracts COVID-19.
Congregate living situations, such as jails, present heightened danger to their occupants as the virus can rapidly spread indoors where people cannot socially distance. The court, in finding extraordinary and compelling circumstances warranted the client’s release, noted that whether COVID-19 is currently present at a facility is only one factor to consider and this cannot preclude action until the damage is done.
The client was ordered released to the custody of a private investigator employed by the firm who transported him to Reagan National Airport for a flight home in California to his family, including his first grand-child, whom the client has never met.
The endeavor to release the client was a team effort involving the firm’s office manager, a private investigator, a close friend of the client and family in California, U.S. Probation, and firm attorneys.