Tekashi 6ix9ine’s lawyer is ‘hopeful’ rapper will be released from prison because of coronavirus risk


HOUSTON, TX – AUGUST 22: Rapper Tekashi69, real name Daniel Hernandez and also known as 6ix9ine, Tekashi 6ix9ine, Tekashi 69, leaves after his arraignment on assault charges in County Criminal Court #1 at the Harris County Courthouse on August 22, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

(CNN) — The attorney for Tekashi 6ix9ine is optimistic a federal judge will order the rapper’s release from prison because asthma makes him vulnerable to the novel coronavirus.

“You never know for sure until you see the court order,” attorney Lance Lazzaro told CNN Thursday, “but I’m hopeful.”

Lazzaro’s comments came after New York District Judge Paul Engelmayer said in a court filing he would have sentenced Tekashi 6ix9ine, whose name is Daniel Hernandez, to home confinement if he had known about the coronavirus.

The rapper is serving a two-year sentence on charges related to gang activity in New York. He received a reduced sentence after cooperating with federal investigators and informing on his former gang associates, and is expected to be released on July 31, according to his attorney.

In recent weeks, there’s been a national push for the release of at-risk inmates as the number of coronavirus cases grows inside correctional facilities. US Attorney General William Barr directed leaders of the federal prison system late last month to increase home confinement for some inmates.

Judge says he would have sentenced home confinement

Lazzaro filed a letter in federal court on March 22 asking that his client be released to avoid the risk of contracting Covid-19. Lazzaro reiterated in another letter on March 31 that Hernandez has “severe asthma and was recently hospitalized for bronchitis,” making him vulnerable to the coronavirus.

Engelmayer denied the request, stating he did not have the authority to grant the request. Hernandez, the judge said, should instead seek compassionate release from the Bureau of Prisons.

But the judge also indicated the sentence would have been different if he had known of the coming pandemic and the threat it posed to people with asthma, like Hernandez.

“Had the court known that sentencing Mr. Hernandez to serve the final four months of his term in a federal prison would have exposed him to a heightened health risk,” Engelmayer wrote in the order, “the Court would have directed that these four months be served instead in home confinement.”

But the BOP also denied the request because Hernandez is not in its custody. He is technically in the care of the US Marshals Service in a private prison.

So Lazzaro went back to the judge, arguing Engelmayer did, in fact, have the authority to order Hernandez’s release — a claim backed by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which prosecuted Hernandez’s case.

US Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman wrote in a letter to Engelmayer that the Court would have the authority to reduce the sentence if it found “extraordinary and compelling reasons” related to the defendant’s health, citing federal law. Additionally, Berman wrote the government “does not oppose” a compassionate release for Hernandez.

Lazzaro told CNN he expects Engelmayer to make a final decision on Hernandez on Thursday or Friday.

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