Criminal Justice

Imprisoned doctor wins early release under First Step Act provision for seriously ill

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A convicted "pill mill" doctor has won early release from prison under a provision of the First Step Act authorizing inmates to petition a judge when they have a life-threatening illness.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt of Houston ruled last Wednesday that the doctor, 74-year-old Richard Evans, had presented compelling reasons justifying a reduction in his five-year sentence, report NPR, the Houston Chronicle, Texas Lawyer and a press release. Evans won release because of a fast-growing malignant melanoma in his neck.

The First Step Act authorizes inmates to file court petitions for a sentencing reduction when the Bureau of Prisons doesn’t act on a request for “compassionate release” based on serious illness. Evans was about 22 months into his prison term when he was freed last Thursday afternoon.

The criminal justice reform law, signed into law in December 2018, allows inmates rather than just the Bureau of Prisons to petition for release, according to a motion filed by Evans’ lawyers. The ABA has supported the bipartisan bill, with ABA President Bob Carlson calling it “an important step towards achieving comprehensive improvements.”

Evans’ motion says a court may order compassionate release for “efficient” medical treatment even if the Bureau of Prisons offers good care. But in Evans’ case, the prison system delayed treatment, “allowing the cancer to spread untreated for months,” the motion says.

Evans first sought medical attention for the mass in October. He wasn’t taken for a biopsy until January, and the results weren’t released to Evans until February, the motion says. According to NPR, the mass is said to measures five inches and is “black and bulging, taking up the entire right side of his neck.”

One of Evans’ lawyers, David Gerger, spoke with the Houston Chronicle about Hoyt’s decision, “We are very grateful,” he said. “This is why you go to law school.”

See also: “Man whose story helped sell lawmakers on First Step Act wins release under its provisions”

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