No Release For 'Real Housewife' Despite COVID-19 Risk

By Reenat Sinay
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Law360 (March 30, 2020, 11:02 AM EDT) -- Disbarred Maryland attorney and former "Real Housewives" cast member Brynee Baylor must remain in prison despite concerns that underlying health problems put her at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, a D.C. federal judge ruled, finding she has not yet exhausted all administrative remedies.

While U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle was sympathetic to Baylor's medical conditions and noted that Baylor would not be a danger to the community, she said Friday that the only medical report attached to Baylor's motion was 15 years old and that Baylor provided no proof she had pushed within the prison system for home detention before turning to the court.

"Baylor's difficult circumstances cannot change the fact that until she exhausts her administrative remedies, the court is without power to modify her sentence," the judge said. "If Baylor wishes to return to this court for further review after exhausting her administrative remedies, the court will need more up-to-date medical information, as well as proof of exhaustion."

Baylor, who was sentenced in September to two years for her role in a $2 million sham trading program, argued in her motion last week that she has kidney problems, which, along with her hypertension and the poor medical treatment she is receiving in custody, "unreasonably" exposes her to risk of infection.

The former attorney once co-led the D.C. firm Baylor & Jackson PLLC and appeared on the first season of "The Real Housewives of Potomac," which aired in early 2016. She was indicted in October of that year on charges of securities fraud and conspiracy and found guilty by a federal jury in April 2019.

Prosecutors said Baylor funneled more than $2 million of investor funds through a client trust account maintained by her former law firm, at least half of which she and her alleged co-conspirators, Milan Group Inc. and its operator, the late Frank L. Pavlico III, kept for themselves.

Milan Group was held out as a "trading program" aimed at monetizing and leasing foreign bank instruments, according to prosecutors.

On the eve of her scheduled incarceration in January, Baylor repetitioned Judge Huvelle to let her remain free while she appealed her conviction, but the request was denied.

Baylor now argues the Bureau of Prisons' failure to properly treat her high blood pressure has resulted in her bleeding directly into her kidneys, which further complicates her preexisting kidney conditions.

She is being held at FPC Alderson in West Virginia, which, as of Friday, had no known cases of COVID-19, Judge Huvelle said in her order.

In its response to Baylor's motion last week, prosecutors argued Baylor's home detention request should be denied because she had not exhausted all administrative remedies. Baylor must request that the Bureau of Prisons file a motion on her behalf and then show that 30 days have passed without any BOP action, they said.

Baylor is not the only high-profile federal prisoner to seek release due to the apparent risk of COVID-19 infection.

President Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen also recently sought release from an upstate New York federal detention center, citing health concerns over the coronavirus outbreak, among other things. A Manhattan federal judge denied his request last week.

Representatives for the parties did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday.

The government is represented by Jeffrey A. McLellan and Eric B. Powers of the U.S. Department of Justice's Tax Division.

Baylor is represented by David Benowitz of Price Benowitz LLP.

The case is U.S. v. Brynee Baylor, case number 1:16-cr-00180, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

--Additional reporting by Craig Clough and Anne Cullen. Editing by Marygrace Murphy.

Update: This story has bee updated with additional information.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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1:16-cr-00180

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District Of Columbia

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October 06, 2016

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