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Monday, December 11, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Lawyer Says Sickly Manafort Is Unusually Vulnerable to Covid-19

(CN) — Taking 11 different kinds of medication behind bars, with still three-quarters of his sentence to go, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort wants out of prison now to protect himself from the new coronavirus.

In a letter first obtained Monday night by CBS News, Manafort’s attorney Kevin Downing describes the former political heavyweight as a 71-year-old in fragile health, suffering from a battery of ailments like liver disease and high blood pressure. 

Eight of Manafort’s more relevant prescriptions — lisinopril for high blood pressure and congestive heart failure, and buspirone for anxiety and heart palpitations — are laid out in a table Downing included in the letter.

Manafort has been imprisoned at the Federal Correctional Institution in Loretto, Pennsylvania, since 2018 and is not slated for release until late 2024.

Though U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III in Virginia sentenced Manafort to four years in prison for a slew of financial crimes, largely bank and tax fraud, the once renowned lobbyist saw his sentence doubled to seven and a half years because he is also convicted in Washington of witness tampering and defrauding the United States.

The term imposed by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson represents the longest sentence issued for anyone who came under investigation in former special counsel Robert Mueller.

Downing’s letter — addressed to Michael Carvajal, director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and Vicky Moser, warden of FCI Loretto — asks that Manafort serve the remainder of his sentence, or at least as long as it takes for the Covid pandemic to abate, in home confinement.

Though FCI Loretto has not yet seen any cases of Covid-19, Manafort’s attorney notes in the letter that Pennsylvania’s has seen dire consequences from the outbreak, which he says poses a “pervasive” threat to inmates and staff.

“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 at FCI Loretto, at which time it may be too late to prevent high risk inmates, such as Mr. Manafort, from contracting the potentially deadly virus,” Downing wrote.

The Bureau of Prisons reported that 388 federal inmates and 201 employees had contracted the novel coronavirus as of Monday. So far, 13 inmates have died.

In early April, Attorney General William Barr wrote to BOP Director Carvajal that home confinement should be prioritized for inmates housed at facilities hardest hit by the virus. This followed a March 26 memo in which Barr listed numerous discretionary factors — including age and vulnerability, the security level of the facility, the prisoner’s conduct, and the nature of conviction — that the BOP can consider in determining home-confinement candidacy.

While Downing addressed his letter to the two prison officials, he also disclosed that U.S. Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen had been cc’d on the communication, along with two Justice Department attorneys who work on issues related to inmate confinement conditions and medical care, among other issues.

Last year it was Rosen who intervened to prevent Manafort’s transfer from Loretto to New York’s notorious Rikers Island prison complex. While such transfers are common typical for federal inmates who face additional charges at the state level — Manafort still faces fraud charges in New York — Rosen cited concerns over the inmate’s poor health to get Manafort kept in Pennsylvania.

Downing notes that Manafort would be able to support himself financially during home confinement and would enroll in Medicare, once released, to seek additional health insurance.

“Home confinement also is more likely to decrease Mr. Manafort’s risk of contracting Covid-19 because he will be residing with his wife of 42 years, Kathleen Manafort, in a three-bedroom apartment in Northern Virginia,” the letter states.

Categories / Criminal, Government, Health, National, Politics

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