NEW YORK — A federal judge put off for two weeks deciding on a request for compassionate release from prison by the former head of South American soccer.
Juan Ángel Napout is being held at the low-security Federal Correctional Institution, Miami. His lawyer, Marc A. Weinstein, said the federal Bureau of Prisons reported Tuesday that COVID-19 infections increased from 20 to 79 among inmates and from six to seven among staff at FCI Miami.
"That is certainly a significant factor, and I understand why the defendant thinks it substantially strengthens his argument for compassionate release, but I still do not feel that compassionate release is warranted at this time," U.S. District Judge Pamela K. Chen in Brooklyn said Wednesday. She added that compassionate release "has historically been intended to redress situations where an inmate is actually suffering from frequently a fatal disease or imminent death."
Chen denied a similar request by Napout on April 10. She said FCI Miami began a full lockdown quarantine on July 7 that ensures social distancing and she wants to evaluate whether more restrictive containment measures control the coronavirus at the prison. She scheduled another hearing for July 29 and asked that the Federal Bureau of Prisons have Napout tested for the virus.
"I don't accept the premise that this is not a situation that can't be controlled. I don't accept the premise that Mr. Napout at least at this point in time is at imminent risk of contracting COVID," she said. "We should see a substantial decrease in the number of new cases and recovery amongst those who've been infected."
Weinstein said the various lockdowns already have restricted Napout to his cell at times for all but 60-100 minutes per week for showers, telephone use and email. He maintained prosecutors were treating Napout unfairly.
"They have a thing for Mr. Napout, that it does not matter how he might be similar to other people," he said. "The answer is going to be no. He has documented hypertension. He is also taking two other drugs prescribed by the facility, for his anxiety and an antidepressant. They are not just giving out pills for no reason. The medical staff has determined that he's got serious conditions."
Countered Assistant U.S. Attorney M. Kristin Mace: "The reality is that he does not have any of the underlying conditions that the CDC has indicated is necessarily a high-risk group and he is age 62, which is not in the most at-risk group."
Napout was convicted on Dec. 22, 2017, of one count of racketeering conspiracy and two counts of wire fraud conspiracy, and he was taken into custody that day. He is serving a nine-year sentence and is scheduled for release on Aug. 9, 2025. His conviction was upheld on June 22 by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Napout was president of the South American governing body CONMEBOL from August 2014 until December 2015, president of the Paraguayan Football Association from 2007-14 and a member of FIFA's executive committee. He was arrested in Zurich while attending FIFA meetings in December 2015.
He was banned for life from soccer by FIFA last September and fined 1 million Swiss francs (then $1.01 million). He has appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.