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Paul Manafort's lawyers ask to transfer him to home confinement over COVID-19 concerns

Lawyers for ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort are asking for his immediate transfer to home confinement, in light of the threat they say COVID-19 poses to his health. He has been serving a seven-year sentence at a federal prison in Loretto, Pennsylvania, for bank fraud and tax evasion.

His attorneys, Todd Blanche and Kevin Downing, wrote a letter to the director of the Bureau of Prisons and the warden at Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Loretto to request his immediate transfer to home confinement "to serve the remainder of his sentence or, alternatively, for the duration of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic," in keeping with Attorney General William Barr's directives in late March and early April. Barr instructed the Bureau of Prisons to increase the use of home confinement among older inmates with underlying conditions as a means to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 within the country's prison system.

Manafort's lawyers pointed out that he is 71 years of age and suffers from a number of maladies, including "high blood pressure, liver disease, and respiratory ailments," Blanche and Downing said in their letter, which was first obtained by CBS News. They noted that he was hospitalized for several days in December for a heart condition, and in February, he became ill with influenza and bronchitis. 

They added that Manafort "currently takes 11 prescription medications daily to treat his various health conditions, 8 of which are relevant to the requested relief..." And the medications, along with his health history "make plain that Mr. Manafort is at a significantly higher risk for serious illness or death."

"Even though there are no reported cases of COVID-19 at FCI Loretto at this time, given the growing number of cases in Pennsylvania and increasing challenges in testing inmates and staff potentially exposed to COVID-19, it is only a matter of time before the infection spreads to staff and inmates at FCI Loretto, at which time it may be too late to prevent high-risk inmates, such as Mr. Manafort, from contracting the potentially deadly virus," his lawyers said.  

Scott Taylor, spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, told CBS News in a statement that while he wouldn't directly comment on the Manafort request, since Barr issued his memo directing the bureau to prioritize home confinement as a response to COVID-19, 919 inmates have been placed on home confinement. 

And because of the surge in cases at some sites, BOP "has begun immediately reviewing all inmates who have COVID-19 risk factors, as described by the CDC," but it is beginning with other facilities first: Oakdale, Louisiana; Danbury, Connecticut; and Elkton, Ohio, Taylor said. These are facilities where inmates have already died of COVID-19.

Michael Avenatti, the attorney who became famous when he was representing adult film star Stormy Daniels in her case against President Trump, was also granted temporary home confinement due to coronavirus, according to a judge's order. Avenatti was convicted of extortion in February.

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