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Brooklyn judge grants compassionate release for 67-year-old former bank robber

May 20, 2020 Rob Abruzzese
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A Brooklyn federal court judge, Hon. Frederick Block, granted the compassionate release of a 67-year-old former bank robber who still had four years left on a 23-year sentence in a written decision the judge issued on Tuesday.

Edward Copeland was the getaway driver during a 2003 bank robbery in which he and accomplices injured no one and got away with $3,700.

Since Copeland was incarcerated, Judge Block, a U.S. District Court judge for the Eastern District of New York, noted that Copeland had become an ideal prisoner who embraced rehabilitation and never had a disciplinary infraction during his time behind bars. Justice Block granted Copeland a reduced sentence based on time served and his declining health.

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“While incarcerated, Copeland incurred no disciplinary infractions, received numerous work-detail promotions, completed extensive drug-treatment and education, and worked tirelessly with fellow inmates in rehabilitative, vocational, and educational programs,” Judge Block wrote.

Copeland made a motion for early release under the First Step Act based on his age and declining health.

The First Step Act was passed by Congress in 2018 and signed by President Donald Trump after it was endorsed publicly by rapper Kanye West and media personality Kim Kardashian. Included in its reforms was an expansion of the compassionate release program by increasing the number of good conduct time credits a prisoner can receive.

Judge Block said that Copeland qualified for release because of a serious medical condition and deteriorating health. The judge added that those issues combined with the spread of COVID-19 at FCI Fort Dix, where Copeland was held in detention, made him more vulnerable to the adverse outcomes of contracting the virus.

Besides health factors, Judge Block wrote, Copeland qualified based on the Bureau of Prisons’ own guidance that suggest that since he is over 65 and has served at least 75 percent of his sentence.

“Even if Copeland were healthy, he met the criteria for release,” Judge Block wrote. “But surely his poor health, especially in the face of the unforeseen ravages of COVID-19, removes any possible doubt that he should no longer be incarcerated.”

This release comes immediately after reports of Brooklyn Federal Court judges denying high-profile prisoners of release. Disgraced R&B singer R. Kelly and infamous “pharma bro” Martin Skhreli were both respectively denied release after judges said that there was no compelling reason given their age and lack of a pre-existing medical condition.


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