The President’s former campaign manager on Monday joined the ranks of federal prisoners asking for release in order to avoid the threat of COVID-19.
Paul Manafort, currently serving seven years for financial crimes, unregistered lobbying and witness tampering, is at a “high risk” for contracting the novel coronavirus in prison due to his age and preexisting health conditions, his lawyer argued in a letter to the Bureau of Prisons.
“[I]t is imperative that Mr. Manafort be transferred to home confinement immediately in order to minimize the likelihood of Mr. Manafort contracting or spreading the potentially fatal disease,” Manafort attorney Kevin Downing wrote. (Read his full letter below.)
While Downing acknowledged that there aren’t any confirmed COVID-19 cases at the Federal Correctional Institution Loretto, where Manafort is stuck behind bars, he wrote that “given the growing number of cases in Pennsylvania and increasing challenges in testing inmates and staff potentially exposed to COVID-19, it is only a matter of time before the infection spreads to staff and inmates” there.
Manafort attorney Todd Blanche told TPM Tuesday morning that the political operative’s legal team hadn’t heard back from prison officials about the request for home confinement. CBS News first reported the request Monday evening.
Manafort is one of scores of high-profile accused or convicted criminals seeking a way out of detention amid the pandemic. Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen asked for a similar reprieve last month.
Around the country, local jail and prison systems as well as the Federal Bureau of Prisons are emptying cells, though with varying degrees of urgency, to lower the risk of spreading the disease.
In Manafort’s case, his lawyer pointed to the risk posed by pre-existing health conditions — “high blood pressure, liver disease, and respiratory ailments” — as well as a December hospitalization for an unspecified cardiac event. Downing also said Manafort contracted the flu and bronchitis in February.
Manafort has been under quarantine at FCI Loretto since March 30, Downing said, “thus making him eligible to be transferred immediately.”
Read Downing’s letter below: