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United States v. Raia

United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

April 2, 2020, Filed

No. 20-1033

Opinion

OPINION OF THE COURT

SMITH, Chief Judge.

] The First Step Act empowers criminal defendants to request compassionate release for "extraordinary and compelling reasons." 18 U.S.C § 3582(c)(1)(A)(i).1 But before they make such requests, defendants must at least ask the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to do so on their behalf and give BOP thirty days to respond. See § 3582(c)(1)(A). And even then, defendants must first submit their motion to "the [sentencing] court"; we can only consider these motions on appeal. § 3582.

Nevertheless, Francis Raia asks us to decide his compassionate-release motion in the first instance. Alternatively, he asks us to dismiss the government's pending appeal so the District Court can decide the motion. But although he asked BOP to move for compassionate release on his behalf, he did not give it thirty days to respond. So we will deny Raia's motion.

While running for local office in Hoboken, New Jersey, Raia directed campaign volunteers to bribe voters with [*3]  $50 payments to vote for him by absentee ballot and support a measure he favored. A jury convicted Raia of conspiring to use the mails to promote unlawful activity in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371. See also 18 U.S.C. § 1952(b)(i)(2) (defining "unlawful activity" to include bribery). The District Court sentenced Raia to three months imprisonment, one year of supervised release, and a $50,000 fine. But the government thought the sentence was too lenient, having originally sought twenty-seven months imprisonment. It appealed to this Court under 18 U.S.C. § 3742(b).

On March 3, 2020, with the government's appeal pending, Raia reported to the federal correctional institute in Fairton, New Jersey to begin his sentence. Shortly thereafter, he asked BOP to move for compassionate release on his behalf. But before BOP responded, and before thirty days passed, Raia filed his own motion with the District Court for compassionate release given the present pandemic caused by COVID-19, a highly contagious respiratory virus which has already infected over 25,000 people in New Jersey and poses unique risks in population-dense prison facilities. See Federal Bureau of Prisons, COVID-19 Action Plan (Mar. 13, 2020, 3:09 PM), https://www.bop.gov/resources/news/20200313_covid-19.jsp; [*4]  New Jersey, COVID-19 Information Hub, https://covid19.nj.gov/ (last updated Apr. 2, 2020, 1:00 PM). In particular, Raia claimed he faces heightened risk of serious illness or death from the virus since he is sixty-eight-years old and suffers from Parkinson's Disease, diabetes, and heart issues.

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2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 10582 *; 954 F.3d 594; 2020 WL 1647922

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Appellant v. FRANCIS RAIA

Subsequent History: Vacated by, Motion granted by United States v. Raia, 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 11033 (3d Cir. N.J., Apr. 8, 2020)

Prior History:  [*1] On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. (District Court No. 2-18-cr-00657. District Judge: The Honorable William J. Martini.

United States v. Raia, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 182134 (D.N.J., Oct. 22, 2019)

CORE TERMS

BOP, compassionate, Prisons, thirty days, compassionate-release, https, required to exhaust, first instance, sentence, virus, months imprisonment, unlawful activity, sentencing court, pending appeal, confinement, resources, pandemic, appeals, inmates, motions, futile, spread, poses, risks, jsp

Criminal Law & Procedure, Sentencing, Corrections, Modifications & Reductions, Circumstances, Eligibility & Factors, Appeals, Reviewability, Postconviction Proceedings