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Judge approves shift from prison to house arrest for senior bank robber with hypertension and Covid-19

A federal judge today approved a request from Joseph Rachal, serving an 8 1/2-year sentence for robbing a Brighton Center bank at gunpoint to be allowed to finish the last 31 months of his sentence at home because he has tested positive for Covid-19 and because he is 68 and has high blood pressure, which could put him at extra risk of death should his condition worsen.

Rachal, an Everett resident with a criminal record dating to his teens, was convicted of robbing the TD Bank branch at 391 Market St. on Nov. 19, 2015. Police say Rachal was well equipped: A white man, he wore a rubber mask that made him appear to be black and he had a portable police scanner with which to monitor the police response. He walked out with $2,397, but police quickly found him nearby, hiding behind an SUV.

In his decision today, US District Court Judge Nathaniel Gorton said Rachal was a perfect candidate for compassionate release from a federal prison, where roughly half the inmates have now tested positive for Covid-19, because of his age and medical condition and because he has served roughly 60% of his sentence.

He noted Rachal's violent past - he was convicted of manslaughter as a 17-year-old, but said Rachal had stopped committing violent crimes more than 40 years ago and that until he was injured in a work accident and became addicted to opioids, he had held steady jobs, raised a family and bought a house. And he noted the conditions that Rachal will have to follow, including wearing and paying for a GPS device for his first six months and enrolling in a substance-abuse counseling program. Also: No guns and no alcohol.

Gorton added:

The defendant is forewarned that the Court will have no tolerance for the violation of any conditions of his supervised release.

PDF icon Complete ruling490.96 KB

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so he killed a guy in 68, escaped, committed a couple of armed robberies while spending three years on the run. then he wears a mask to make himself look black and sticks a gun in two bank tellers faces? and now they are going to let him go because he is suffering from covid?

he's probably going to need to get a new mask.

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So because he tested positive for Covid they are releasing him?! Unreal , he’s been in prison for many years do ya really think he’s going to quarantine at home, NOPE! He’s going to go and possibly unwilling past covid around . Along with committing a few more bank robberies for that easy cash that most addicts chase. Our system is fucked!

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That only selects for certain keywords, such as "Covid-19"?

I ask because if you had read the entire story, you would see that he wasn't sent home just because he has Covid-19, but because he has two underlying conditions (age and high blood pressure) that put him at particular risk for major complications or death should the disease worsen. Also, that the judge did not feel he was a flight risk and that he has put his days of violence behind him.

Maybe I should have included links to some of the other stories like this I've written, like the one just last week in which a guy with both Covid-19 and leukemia was told he can stay in prison because he's a potential menace to society in general (and in particular to his ex-wife, the one he tried to hire a hitman to kill). Or this one, a couple weeks ago, about the Latin Kings guy a judge ruled had to stay behind bars even though he also has Covid-19, because he'd also be a menace to society.

Say what you will about federal judges in Boston, but they are not just writing out Get-Out-of-Jail cards.

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No I don’t have a filter that only selects covid-19.. I particularly mentioned covid because he is being released for having covid . If covid wasn’t going on he would not be released due to age and blood pressure alone. So why now that he has covid is he suddenly not dangerous enough to do his full sentence anymore? Releasing a man that is covid positive into society after years of prison doesn’t sound logical to me. He’s at great risk for infecting many if he doesn’t comply with the rules which given his record seems as though he doesn’t like to follow the rules of the law.

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At least for the first six months, which is more than enough time for a quarantine period. For that matter, although I didn't put it in the story, he was already being quarantined in prison following his diagnosis. And again, this guy was NOT released just because he has Covid-19.

Like it or not, both state and federal courts now have rules that allow for "compassionate" release of both prisoners and people awaiting trial because of the pandemic. No, a judge can't just release somebody because a) they are afraid of getting Covid-19 (not that numerous people haven't submitted requests for just that reason alone). And as I showed you with those links above, even actually having Covid-19 is not by itself enough reason for "compassionate early release."

The exact rules vary, but in both court systems, you have to prove you have an underlying medical condition that would put you at greater risk of major complications or death should you contract Covid-19 (such as, in this case, being over 65 and having high blood pressure) AND you are not a potential menace to society or a flight risk.

So again, to answer your statement, no, judges are NOT just releasing people with Covid-19 (and again, I gave you links to stories about that).

The state rules have several specific crimes which make people ineligible regardless of their condition (basically crimes of violence). As far as I can tell, the federal rules give the judges a bit more leeway to consider a petitioner's case. I have yet to see a federal case in which somebody was released, even with serious underlying conditions, in which somebody was released where the judge felt the person was either a flight risk or a potential menace to society.

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no card for him.

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