A judge Tuesday said he’d grant early release to a 70-year-old federal inmate who is eight months shy of completing his 10-year sentence for sexually abusing five girls because of the man’s unusual vulnerability to contracting coronavirus behind bars.
Harry Hintsala has advanced kidney disease, must use a wheelchair and is being held at the Lompoc federal prison in California, where 105 inmates have tested positive and two have died, defense lawyer Stephen Sady said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Barr opposed any early release, as did the guardian of one of the girls in the case.
Hinstala sexually abused five girls all under age 12 on the Warm Springs Reservation over three and a half years, Barr said. Some of the abuse occurred in front of other children, Barr said.
Hintsala was convicted of five counts of abusive sexual conduct and sentenced to two years for each count, to run consecutively.
“This was a carefully structured 10-year sentence,’’ Barr said. “I don’t think we should just throw that aside.”
The guardian of one of the victims told the judge, “I feel like he’s not rehabilitated himself to be honored this early release.’’
She added that Hintsala’s request for compassionate release is “for his own selfish gain because of his health issues.’’
But Sady said Hintsala isn’t a danger to the community anymore. With credit for good time served, he has completed almost all of his sentence. His projected release date from prison is Jan. 26, 2021, with a scheduled transfer to a halfway house this coming July.
Once a release plan is approved by the judge, Hintsala is a prime candidate for compassionate release, considering his health condition and the threat of the COVID-19 outbreak at the prison where he’s being held, Sady argued.
U.S. District Judge Michael W. Mosman said the pandemic warranted the granting of compassionate release for Hintsala.
In practical terms, with a required 14-day quarantine period, he’ll be released to home detention about 30 days short of what would have been his release to the halfway house, Mosman said.
The judge directed Sady and probation officers to come up with a suitable release plan that would allow for adequate supervision of Hintsala. He said he wouldn’t allow Hintsala to live at his daughter’s home.
“I take seriously that the sentence here was a carefully crafted one,’’ the judge said. “No one is being honored today with some sort of reduced sentence. Not at all.’’
“Without the presence of the COVID-19 pandemic and its particular concerns in the prison setting,’’ Hintsala’s health problems wouldn’t result in an earlier release, Mosman said. “I’m reluctant to do so but feel the statutory requirements have been met in this case.”
— Maxine Bernstein
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Published at Tue, 12 May 2020 16:43:00 +0000