A federal judge today rejected a plea by onetime Bulger lieutenant Edward MacKenzie that he be allowed to serve the last three years of a twelve-year extortion sentence at home because he suffers from a frequently stuffed nose and high blood pressure - and because he wants to care for his orphaned grandson.
US District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor said that neither a stuffed nose nor medically-controlled high blood pressure put MacKenzie at particular risk should he contract Covid-19 while behind bars, currently at the Federal Medical Center in Devens. And while his desire to care for his newly orphaned grandson is commendable, Saylor wrote in a ruling today, the boy is currently being cared for by MacKenzie's other, still living daughter.
MacKenzie was sentenced in 2015 to 12 years in federal custody on racketeering and money-laundering charges after he pleaded guilty to taking control of the Swedenborgian Church on Bowdoin Street and then looting it - and the 18-story apartment building above it - for ten years. With credit for time served while awaiting trial, MacKenzie was scheduled for release in August, 2023.
On April 16, his attorney asked for a "compassionate release" because of the threat posed by Covid-19 to inmates. Judges in US District Court in Boston have been busy the past three weeks ruling on numerous similar requests, which they have generally denied if the inmates have no or relatively minor exisitng conditions and if they would pose a threat to society if allowed to await trial at home or be released early.
In his ruling today, Saylor said neither high blood pressure of the sort MacKenzie has nor chronic rhinitis qualify as risk factors under CDC guidelines and that, so far, the Devens facility has had just one confirmed inmate case of Covid-19 and no confirmed cases among guards.
In sum, the evidence in the record does not support a finding that defendant’s medical conditions or prison conditions make him especially vulnerable to infection, let alone the kind of serious, debilitating impairment that would qualify as an extraordinary and compelling reason for release.
Saylor - who oversaw MacKenzie's case, plea and sentencing in 2015 after he agreed to plead guilty, also disagreed with MacKenzie's assertion he would not prove a risk to society if released to home confinement.
The Court based its 144-month sentence in substantial part on defendant’s "lengthy history of fraud and violence," the "elaborate and calculating" nature of his crime, which defrauded a church and its elderly congregation, and his inappropriate attempts to manipulate his own children in his criminal conduct. Nothing in the intervening years has diminished the seriousness of his offense or the nature of his criminal history, and nothing in the record suggests that releasing him 40 months early from his prison term is appropriate.