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Ex-Atty Got COVID Vax So No Early Release, Gov't Says

By Dave Simpson · March 23, 2021, 6:50 PM EDT

A former Houston attorney convicted of being involved in an $18 million tax scheme should not be released from federal prison early for COVID-19 reasons after serving about a quarter of his sentence because he's already been vaccinated, prosecutors argued Monday.

Prosecutors urged the Texas federal court not to grant early release and home confinement for the remaining 18 months of Jack Stephen Pursley's sentence, noting that he is trotting out the same arguments he did at his sentencing that his variety of apparent ailments put him at a greater health risk during the pandemic.

"Even if the court accepts that Pursley's health conditions could have subjected him to an increased risk of serious harm from COVID-19 compared to the population in general, Pursley is now fully vaccinated against the virus," the prosecutors said. "Pursley is thus at a significantly lower risk of grave illness or death because of infection. The defendant also poses a much lower risk of transmitting the COVID-19 virus to fellow inmates."

Pursley was convicted in September 2019 of three counts of tax evasion and one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. for his participation in the $18 million tax scheme. He was caught while working with a former client to repatriate their untaxed earnings from Southeastern Shipping, a company providing workers to offshore oil rigs primarily based in the Middle East.

According to prosecutors, those funds were transferred from the company's account in the Isle of Man to the U.S. and fraudulently labeled stock purchases.

In August, Pursley was sentenced to two years in prison, a significantly lower sentence than the 10 to 15 years prosecutors asked for during his trial. They argued that Pursley did not acknowledge his wrongdoings or show remorse.

During trial, Pursley filed a motion for acquittal, a motion to dismiss and a motion to sanction the government — all of which Judge Hughes denied. He also filed a motion for a retrial in October, which was also dismissed.

Pursley asked the court earlier this month to let him out after the prison warden rejected his request. In the filing, he cited a year-old memo from then-U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr allowing prisons to release nonviolent low-risk inmates "who might be safer serving their sentences in home confinement rather than in [Federal Bureau of Prisons] facilities."

"After six months of confinement, the loss of his practice and facing imminent grave illness or death while in custody, Mr. Pursley is prepared to walk humbly in this world," the motion said.

The government is represented by Grace Ethel Albinson, Sean Patrick Beaty, Jack Allen Morgan and Nanette Louise Davis of the U.S. Department of Justice's Tax Division.

Pursley is represented by Chip Lewis of Chip B. Lewis Law Office.

The case is U.S. v. Jack Stephen Pursley, case number 4:18-cr-00575, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

--Additional reporting by Katie Buehler and J. Edward Moreno. Editing by Jay Jackson Jr.

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