Cry me a river!
Convicted Los Angeles lawyer Michael Avenatti urged a court on Monday to release him from a federal jail in New York after a judge agreed that his health could be jeopardized by the spread of the coronavirus among inmates.
The former attorney for adult-film actress Stormy Daniels is part of a growing group of high-profile prisoners, including comedian Bill Cosby and financier Bernie Madoff, who say they should be set free to protect them from COVID-19.
The pleas for mercy come amid mounting concerns that jails and prisons could serve as dangerous breeding grounds for the coronavirus. An inmate and four people who work in Los Angeles County jails have tested positive for COVID-19. After displaying symptoms Thursday, the inmate was taken to L.A. County-USC Medical Center.
Lawyers for R&B singer R. Kelly, 53, who is awaiting trial on charges of sexually exploiting underage girls, asked a federal judge last week to release him from the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago.
“Requiring people to reside in a custodial jail setting is tantamount to making them drink poison.”R. Kelly Lawyers
Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal attorney, asked a federal judge in New York to let him go home to serve the rest of his three-year sentence for campaign-finance and other crimes for fear that he’ll catch the deadly virus in prison. U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III turned him down.
“That Cohen would seek to single himself out for release to home confinement appears to be just another effort to inject himself into the news cycle….. Ten months into his prison term, it’s time that Cohen accept the consequences of his criminal convictions for serious crimes that had far reaching institutional harms.“U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III
Spokesmen for Madoff, 81, who’s serving a 150-year sentence for an immense Ponzi scheme, and Cosby, who is serving three to 10 years in prison for sexual assault, say they too should be released to spare them infection.
Cosby, 82, has no cellmate at the state prison outside Philadelphia where he’s locked up, his publicist Andrew Wyatt said. Cosby has a mask and eats meals in his cell, but is still vulnerable to infection in a facility where another inmate has tested positive, so he should be transferred to home confinement, Wyatt said.
Colombian drug kingpin Gilberto Rodriguez-Orejuela, 81, has also asked to be freed early.
Avenatti, 49, who was convicted last month of trying to extort more than $20 million from the sportswear giant Nike and is set to be sentenced in June, is awaiting trial in two other criminal cases, one in New York and one in Santa Ana.
He has asked U.S. District Judge James V. Selna in Santa Ana to release him based on concern he will catch COVID-19 at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, where three inmates have tested positive for the virus.
After his bail was revoked in January, Avenatti “languished in solitary confinement in a filthy, windowless, unventilated 10 x 8 cage for 23 or 24 hours for the first 30 days,” with his meals slipped to him through a slot, his attorney H. Dean Steward wrote in court papers.
He was moved to a 26-man dorm, where he shared a cell with a man who came down with “a severe cough and fever,” Steward said. Avenatti suffered a bout of pneumonia six months ago and remains susceptible to lung infections, he wrote.
Prosecutors objected to Avenatti’s release, saying he was likely to resume committing financial crimes and posed a danger to the community.