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United States v. Haney

United States District Court for the Southern District of New York

April 13, 2020, Decided

19-cr-541 (JSR)




Defendant Hugh Haney, who has yet to serve 33 months of his 42 months' sentence for selling and laundering narcotics proceeds on a Bitcoin exchange, moves for temporary or permanent "compassionate release" from prison pursuant to the FIRST STEP Act of 2018, Pub. L. No. 115-391, 132 Stat. 5194 (2018). See Emergency Motion for Compassionate Release, ECF No. 22 ("Def. Mem."). Normally, such an application would be frivolous on its face. But these are not normal times. The rapid spread of COVID-19 has caused a public health crisis and a national emergency that can best be reduced by the kind of social distancing not easily attained in an overcrowded federal prison facility, such as the Metropolitan Detention Center ("MDC") where Haney resides. Moreover, because of his age (61), Haney faces a somewhat higher risk of falling seriously [*2]  ill from contracting COVID-19 than much of the prison population. In that context, his motion -- although strenuously opposed by the Government, see Government's Memorandum of Law in Opposition to the Defendant's Emergency Motion for Compassionate Release, ECF No. 23 ("Gov. Opp.") -- must be given serious consideration.

But before turning to the merits, the Court must consider the Government's objection that this matter is not properly before this Court at this time, because Haney has not yet exhausted the opportunity that Congress has given to the Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") to address such motions in the first instance.

Compassionate release allows a court to reduce a term of imprisonment where, among other things, "extraordinary and compelling reasons warrant such a reduction." 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A). Prior to the enactment of the FIRST STEP Act, only the Director of the BOP could file a motion for compassionate release. The FIRST STEP Act amended this provision to permit an inmate to file a motion in federal court seeking compassionate release, but only after either exhausting administrative review of a BOP denial of his request or after 30 days had passed since he made his request, whichever was earlier. [*3]  See id.

Here, neither alternative is satisfied. Specifically, it was not until March 26, 2020 that Haney (through his counsel) sent an email to the warden of the MDC requesting compassionate release. See ECF No. 22, Ex. C. To this date, the BOP has yet to rule on the request, and 30 days have yet to pass.

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2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 63971 *



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