A federal judge yesterday ordered John Lynch, who admitted taking bribes to help a developer get a zoning approval he needed, freed from the federal prison in Devens so that he can spend the rest of his sentence under home confinement in Dorchester, rather than risk contracting Covid-19.
Just three weeks ago, US District Court Judge Patti Saris had denied Lynch's request for compassionate release in part because she did not feel he had served enough time on his bribery sentence, in part due to the fact that the minimum-security Devens had had no Covid-19 cases and so Lynch, who is 67 and has heart and kidney problems, was at no particular risk.
But Saris reversed that decision yesterday, saying that in the three weeks since, at least 129 Devens inmates - and possibly as many as 262 - have tested positive for Covid-19, as have numerous prison staffers, putting Lynch at particular risk should he catch the virus because of his underlying health issues.
In fact, Lynch is already in quarantine at Devens after coming into contact with somebody else who later tested positive for Covid-19, Saris wrote.
"Devens has become a hotspot," she wrote. "While the crime of accepting bribes is serious, finishing the remainder of the sentence in home confinement on an electronic bracelet is sufficient but no greater than necessary in light of the high risk of Covid. Restitution has been paid. There is no threat to public safety or risk of flight."
On Dec. 22, prison Warden Kimo Elraheb recommended Lynch be considered for home confinement because of the rapid spread of Covid-19 through Devens and his age and existing medical conditions.
Lynch had been scheduled for release on Feb. 14, 2023, at the end of his 40-month sentence for taking a total of $50,000 in payments to help get the Zoning Board of Appeals to issue a ruling needed by the developer of a small South Boston condo project to sell the unstarted project and its associated zoning approvals. To date, Lynch remains the only person charged in the case, although one zoning-board member resigned, while the former head of ISD took a leave of absence.
Federal prosecutors opposed Lynch's request for home confinement, in part because he is housed at a prison "camp," separate from the main prison facility, where the cases have occurred.
"Although there are presently no present cases in the camp, defendant was exposed due to a work assignment and is presently in quarantine," Saris wrote.