An Indiana judge turned down a request by an ex-Merrill Lynch broker who had requested early release from prison based on concerns over his health and COVID-19.
In February 2019, former Merrill rep Thomas Buck was sentenced by Judge James R. Sweeney II of U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana to 40 months for one count of securities fraud after Buck was found guilty of charging excessive commissions and fees to clients.
On May 12, Buck’s attorney, Pat Shoulders, a partner at Evansville, Indiana law firm Ziemer, Stayman, Weitzel & Shoulders, filed a motion that the former broker be immediately released from prison based on his age (66) and medical history in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Tom is over age 65 and has chronic asthma and immune deficiency health issues; should he contract COVID-19 he would be at risk for serious, life-threatening illness,” Shoulders told ThinkAdvisor on Monday.
“Prisons are petri dishes for the development and spread of this disease,” he said, adding: “He poses no risk to society and could serve his time on home confinement — much like more celebrated defendants” including President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr, after all, “has directed the Bureau of Prisons to release prisoners like Tom,” and “we had hoped to accelerate that process” in the case of Buck, Shoulders said.
However, responding to Buck’s motion, Josh J. Minkler, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, said May 27 that the request should be denied.
“His medical conditions, as described in both prison records and the medical records he filed, do not rise to that level, even in light of” COVID-19, Minkler argued in a response filed with the court. Buck started serving his prison sentence at FCI Terre Haute in Terre Haute, Indiana, on March 21, 2019, Minkler noted.
On July 7, the judge denied Buck’s request, saying in his order: “Mr. Buck has not shown that extraordinary and compelling reasons warrant a sentence reduction.”