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Gov't Backs Rick Gates' Home Confinement Bid Amid Virus

By Khorri Atkinson · April 19, 2020, 10:23 PM EDT

Former Trump campaign deputy chairman Rick Gates, with the backing of federal prosecutors, asked a D.C. federal judge Sunday evening to allow him to serve the remainder of his intermittent jail sentence at home because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Gates was sentenced last December to 45 days in jail and three years' probation after serving as a star witness in former special counsel Robert Mueller's Russian election interference probe. His attorney wrote in a four-page filing that Gates' wife is continuing cancer treatment and her husband's going in and out of jail would be a threat to her health.

Gates, a father of four and a Virginia resident, "must now provide additional care for his family for the foreseeable future while his wife continues her treatment for and recovery from cancer," according to the request to U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who oversaw the Gates' trial.

"The massive societal disruptions caused by this pandemic are tragic, and the burdens they have placed on Mr. Gates and his family warrant a modification of the condition on his probation," said attorney Thomas C. Green of Sidley Austin LLP. He added that attorneys at the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia who prosecuted the case support Gates' request.

"The gravity of the virus and its potential impact on Mrs. Gates are substantial. If Mr. Gates were to return to his home carrying the virus, it could create serious ramifications for his wife. Due to her cancer treatment, her immune system is compromised, placing her at heightened risk for serious side effects or worse if she were to be infected with the coronavirus. Aside from matters of health, the pandemic has created additional pressures on the family," the attorney added. 

Green did not say how many days Gates has served so far, and he did not immediately reply to a request for comment Sunday.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons website shows Gates is under the supervision of its residential reentry management office in Baltimore, Maryland.

Gates, 47, was initially facing up to 10 years in prison, but his guilty plea cut it in half. He faced a variety of charges stemming from Mueller's wide-ranging, Russia election-meddling probe, including money laundering, tax evasion and efforts to avoid reporting "foreign agent" status to the U.S. government for lobbying work performed on behalf of pro-Russia politicians in Ukraine.

He is one of six Trump associates to be convicted on charges brought by Mueller, including the president's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former lawyer Michael Cohen.

Manafort, who's currently serving a 7½-year federal prison term for two separate convictions: in Washington, D.C., for obstruction and unsanctioned lobbying work, and in Virginia for bank and tax fraud, is also seeking more lenient incarceration terms.

Last week he asked the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons to allow the 71-year-old to complete all or part of his remaining sentence in home confinement.

In a letter dated April 13 seen by Law360, Manafort's attorneys wrote that his age and preexisting health conditions put him at a "high risk" of contracting COVID-19 at the Federal Correctional Institution, Loretto, a low-security facility in Pennsylvania.

And according to multiple media reports Friday, Cohen is set to be released early from prison due to the coronavirus. The 53-year-old former staunch ally of Trump is incarcerated at an upstate New York federal facility and has a 2021 release date. He was sentenced in 2018 to three years for a series of crimes, including paying off two women who said they had affairs with the president, lying to Congress about Russia and dodging taxes on $4.1 million of income.

As COVID-19 cases continue to grow nationwide each day, federal courts have been under mounting pressure to release vulnerable inmates.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr, who oversees the Bureau of Prisons, earlier this month urged federal prosecutors in a memo to take the pandemic into consideration when deciding whether to seek pretrial detention for criminal defendants.

Barr also asserted that government attorneys should continue to abide by the Bail Reform Act and keep the safety of the broader public as their highest priority, and that prosecutors should consider cases where the defendant presents little risk of flight or harm to the community or in cases where the defendant is particularly susceptible to COVID-19.

The government is represented in Gates' request by Zia Mustafa Faruqui and Molly Gaston of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia.

Gates is represented by Thomas C. Green of Sidley Austin LLP.

The case is U.S. v. Manafort et al., case number 1:17-cr-00201, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

--Additional reporting by Hannah Albarazi and Mike LaSusa. Editing by Katherine Rautenberg.

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