Insurance Felon Fails to Get Early Release Because of Covid

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Courts across the United States have provided unvaccinated and ill prisoners compassionate release from jail ignoring the fact that the prisoner, if infected, might pass the disease to the public.

Brian Stone, proceeding pro se, moved for compassionate release claiming he suffers from long Covid. In United States of America v. Brian Stone, No. 2:16-cr-00038-KJM-3, United States District Court, E.D. California (July 5, 2022) the USDC kept him in jail.
BACKGROUND

After being disbarred as an attorney, Mr. Stone participated in a multi-fire arson and insurance fraud scheme. Mr. Stone was convicted of multiple counts of both mail fraud and wire fraud. In September 2018, he was sentenced to 72 months of imprisonment. According to the Bureau of Prisons, Mr. Stone is eligible to be placed in a halfway house, and this placement has already happened or will happen soon.

In 2020, the then-presiding Judge of this court denied Mr. Stone’s first motion for compassionate release. Mr. Stone again seeks compassionate release based on the following circumstances and allegations:

    He is suffering from health issues relating to long COVID, including headaches, body aches, extreme fatigue, brain fog, elevated heartrate, and cramping.
    Stone has experienced these symptoms for over a year and has not received treatment for his symptoms because Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Lompoc, where he is incarcerated, has classified him as fully recovered.
    COVID-19 “has spread like wildfire” at FCI Lompoc and Mr. Stone is “at heightened risk for serious illness or death” from COVID due to his serious underlying health conditions. These conditions include hypertension, diabetes, unspecified depressive disorder, Binswanger’s Disease (a form of dementia), and residual symptoms of a stroke.
    His sentence has been harsher as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and he has a viable release plan and support from family. Mr. Stone’s projected release date is November 12, 2022, based upon application of Good Conduct Time and First Step Act Earned Time Credits.

The government opposed his motion based primarily on its analysis of his medical conditions. Mr. Stone has been fully vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19, and his medical records indicate he is being treated for several health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, hyperlipidemia, dementia, and essential (primary) hypertension. The government also argued that an early release would be inappropriate given the severity and complexity of his crimes and his criminal history. Mr. Stone is in his early 60s. Mr. Stone has not filed a reply to the government’s March 30, 2022 opposition.
ANALYSIS

If a defendant is vaccinated, as Mr. Stone is, the USDC court has employed a rebuttable presumption that the risk of severe harm from COVID-19 is not an “extraordinary and compelling” reason under the code. A defendant can rebut this presumption by offering evidence of an elevated personal risk of severe harm despite the protections of vaccination.

When defendants offer no evidence that vaccination will not protect them against severe harm from COVID-19 and do not show the facilities where they are currently incarcerated are experiencing a surge in infections caused by a SARS-CoV-2 variant, courts deny motions more often than not.

Although Mr. Stone’s health conditions and age likely put him at risk of severe COVID-19 if he were not vaccinated, he did not cite evidence showing he remains at risk. While he alleges COVID-19 is spreading in the facility where he is housed, the Bureau of Prisons’ COVID-19 webpage indicates that zero inmates and three staff are currently infected with COVID-19 at FCI Lompoc.

Finally, Mr. Stone has been, or soon will be, released to a halfway house, where the population will be smaller and thus less conducive to the spread of COVID-19. He has not carried his burden to show his health conditions and risk of reinfection are extraordinary and compelling circumstances.

The motion was denied without prejudice to renewal with evidence of an elevated personal risk of severe harm despite the protections of vaccination.

ZALMA OPINION

Insurance criminals, like disbarred lawyer Stone, have no honor. Although scheduled for release for good behavior to a half-way house, insisted on bothering the District Court with a motion for compassionate release without providing sufficient evidence. His effort failed although the court allowed him to try again.

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Barry Zalma, Esq., CFE, now limits his practice to service as an insurance consultant specializing in insurance coverage, insurance claims handling, insurance bad faith and insurance fraud almost equally for insurers and policyholders. He practiced law in California for more than 44 years as an insurance coverage and claims handling lawyer and more than 54 years in the insurance business. He is available at http://www.zalma.com and [email protected]

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