Manafort Exits Covid-Free Prison to Serve Out Sentence in Virus-Strewn Virginia

Paul Manafort, pictured here at a New York court where he was arraigned last year on state mortgage fraud charges, was granted home confinement Wednesday. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) — Paul Manafort was released from prison Wednesday due to concerns over what exposure to the novel coronavirus behind bars could mean for the ailing former chairman of President Donald Trump’s election campaign.

Defense attorney Kevin Downing made the request weeks earlier for Manafort to serve out the rest of his sentence from home, noting that the 71-year-old suffers from liver disease, high blood pressure, and other ailments like anxiety and congestive heart failure that he treats with various medications.

Early Wednesday morning, CBS News was first to report, Manafort was released from the facility the Federal Correction Institution in Loretto, Pennsylvania, where he has been serving a seven-year sentence for tax fraud and other crimes including failure to report foreign lobbying efforts and witness tampering.

Downing confirmed the former lobbyist’s release but otherwise declined to comment. The Bureau of Prisons has not responded to a request for comment.

Manafort was expected to finish his sentence at the Loretto facility in 2024, but contracted the flu and bronchitis this past February after reportedly suffering a cardiac event that required hospitalization in December. The World Health Organization designated the novel coronavirus a global pandemic in early March.

Though there have been no reports of Covid-19 inside of the facility where Manafort was serving his time, outbreaks of the novel coronavirus are, somewhat ironically, quite severe in the suburban enclave of northern Virginia where Manafort shares a three-bedroom apartment with his wife, Kathleen, and is likely headed, per his April request.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced just 24 hours ago an extension for stay-at-home orders for cities in northern Virginia through May 28. The rest of the state will begin to move out of the first phase of restrictions since cases have trended downward.

Northam said on Tuesday that northern Virginia has a 25% positive Covid-19 case rate, while the rest of the state hovers at about 10%. Roughly 70% of the state’s infections have been tied back to northernVirginia, according to the commonwealth’s Department of Health. 

Manafort’s release comes as a similar request from Trump’s former personal fixer Michael Cohen awaits movement.

When 53-year-old Cohen first asked for home confinement in March, U.S. District Judge William Pauley denied the request as little more than a “media stunt.”

His friend and adviser Lanny Davis said a new request fared better, and that he could expect to be out by May 1. That date came and went without a peep from the Bureau of Prisons or the Department of Justice, and Cohen remains at the medium-security Otisville Correctional Institution in New York, which has seen at least 14 inmates and seven staffers diagnosed with Covid-19 as of mid-April.

It is unclear why Cohen’s confinement request has not been granted. The former lawyer is serving a three-year sentence for tax fraud, campaign-finance violations and lying to Congress.

Davis did not immediately return request for comment Wednesday.

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