Compassionate Release can be appropriate Post-Vaccine: Sawyer
Over the next few weeks we want to take some time and find Compassionate Release cases that have been granted in the post-vaccine era for you to consider.
Facts: Child Porn Case, Serious Health Problems, Vaccinated
Sawyer had been found guilty of receipt of child pornography in 2016 and was sentenced to 160 months in prison. Sawyer was 63 years old and suffered from neuropathy (damage or dysfunction of one or more nerves that typically results in numbness, tingling, muscle weakness and pain) in his legs and feet, hypertension, morbid obesity, stage three kidney failure, venuos stenosis (a serious condition that can “manifest with swelling, pain, and superficial varicosities”), type two diabetes and sleep apnea.
Sawyer filed for Compassionate Release on January 4 of 2021 and a hearing was held in June of 2021. Sawyer argued that in light of his health conditions, the COVID-19 pandemic put his life in serious jeopardy and that constituted extraordinary and compelling circumstances.
Court: Vaccinated Persons Can Receive Compassionate Release
The district court noted that “courts have discretion to afford relief to defendants under 3582(c)(1)(A) even where their circumstances do not fit squarely within the current policy statement of the Sentencing Commission as reflected in U.S.S.G. 1B1.13.” The court also noted that although 1B1.13 provided guidance, it did not constrain the court from making an independent assessment of whether extraordinary and compelling reasons warranted a reduction.
The court noted that although he had been vaccinated, Sawyer was morbidly obese and had several other serious health conditions. Also, the Center for Disease Control’s guidance indicated that the vaccine may not be effective or is less effective on individuals with obesity. The court indicated that other jurisdictions had granted compassionate release motions to vaccinated persons with morbid obesity or other severe health conditions.
The court also examined the 3553(a) factors and determined that while the offense conduct was serious, Sawyer completed twelve-step programs, HVAC certification and other courses.
The court modified the remaining term of incarceration to a four-year period of supervised release and included home confinement as a special term of release.
NOTES: What does the Sawyer case mean?
While we know that two rounds of either Moderna or Pfizer provide long-term excellent protection against serious illness and death from COVID-19, there are a string of cases that show that compassionate release is still possible in certain circumstances. This is especially relevant as the Omicron variant is working its way through Bureau of Prisons facilities. Questions such as date of vaccination, the type of vaccine administered and the date of any applicable booster also become important as information about the waning efficacy of the vaccines over time becomes available.
We note however, that the best candidates for compassionate release at this point are individuals who have not previously filed; individuals have previously filed and have been denied based on the 3553(a) sentencing factors are not good candidates for refiling as the basis for their denial has likely changed little from the time of their denial. Your district of conviction also matters with certain districts extremely hostile to the filing of compassionate release motions for COVID susceptibility.
If you believe that you are an appropriate candidate to file a compassionate release motion and have not been previously denied based on the 3553(a) factors then please reach out to us at [email protected] so that we can discuss your case further.