WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, became the latest high-profile federal inmate to request release on home confinement due to the coronavirus outbreak, according to an April 13 letter seen by Reuters.
In the letter, Manafort’s attorneys ask the Bureau of Prisons director and the warden at FCI Loretto in Pennsylvania to let Manafort serve the remainder of his 7-1/2-year prison term at his home in Virginia, saying he is at a greater risk of complications if he contracts COVID-19, the potentially lethal respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus.
Manafort, 71, “suffers from several pre-existing health conditions, including high blood pressure, liver disease and respiratory ailments,” they wrote. “Mr. Manafort is at a significantly higher risk for serious illness or death.”
Fourteen federal inmates housed in prison complexes in Louisiana, Ohio and North Carolina have died from COVID-19, and hundreds of inmates and prison staff have fallen ill.
Attorney General William Barr issued a memo on April 3 saying the Bureau of Prisons is facing an emergency, a declaration that paves the way for the agency to release a wider group of inmates into home confinement.
The bureau previously could release to home confinement only inmates who had already served at least 90% of their sentence or had no more than six months left to go, but the $2 trillion stimulus bill signed by President Donald Trump expanded the pool of potential inmates that could be considered.
Since then, families of federal inmates have told Reuters they have rushed to apply for their loved ones to be considered.
One other high-profile inmate to win a temporary release from custody was convicted celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti, who was granted home confinement on Friday from a New York City jail by a federal judge in California due to the risks of COVID-19.
Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen and R&B singer R. Kelly have had their requests denied, while the rapper Tekashi69, who has asthma, was released early from his two-year term.
Meanwhile, some federal inmates are being selected for possible home confinement release without even applying.
Robert Banks, an inmate at a federal prison in Pollock, Louisiana, told Reuters in an interview on Friday he just learned his name was added to a list the bureau had prepared for eligible inmates.
“I was called to the case manager’s office and she was told her higher-ups were given directives … to make packages for release for certain inmates,” he said.
He is still waiting, however, to see if his release comes to fruition.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; additional reporting by Karen Freifeld in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis)