Occasionally, a convicted defendant’s terminal health condition will affect the nature of the sentence that is imposed. In one white collar criminal conviction in New York state, the U.S. Attorney has relinquished an attempt to have a former powerful state senator incarcerated due to the defendant’s reportedly terminal cancer diagnosis. The U.S. Attorney stated that the decision — made in the face of a conviction on felony charges for lying to the FBI — was made after the prosecution’s own medical expert agreed with the defendant’s experts that the defendant has one year or less to live.
The prosecution indicated that it would not object to a sentence of home confinement. The government made it clear that it normally would have sought a custodial sentence, which is certainly a claim to be believed. The conviction on the one felony count exposes the defendant to up to five years in prison.
The prosecution’s position on sentencing was unusual, as it rarely withdraws requests for incarceration based on medical matters. The prosecution, in fact, referred to the position of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, stating that the BOP was ready to give the prisoner the same service that he would get from home. In a rare departure, however, the U.S. Attorney opted to give up any request for custodial incarceration.
In fact, studies indicate that the BOP position is exaggerated and that federal prison facilities are inadequate to care for seriously or terminally ill patients. There is reportedly a lack of modern diagnostic facilities, a shortage of qualified doctors and no hospice-like care. The public should, therefore, welcome the prosecution’s position as a move in the right direction. However, it is nonetheless curious that a former powerful leader in the New York Senate convicted of non-violent felony charges is given the privilege of house arrest when thousands of other similarly afflicted prisoners have been uniformly denied such privileges in the past. Hopefully, recent efforts to reduce the prison population of non-violent offenders will generate reforms that increase the chances of home confinement for those with terminal illnesses.
Source: pressconnects.com, “Libous prosecutors want house arrest, substantial fine“, Jon Campbell, Nov. 10, 2015