Courts and COVID-19: Oaks Seeks Release, Glenn Sentencing Postponed

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Former state Sen. Nathaniel Oaks (D-Baltimore City) on Monday petitioned a federal judge for compassionate release from his 42-month prison sentence, citing the novel coronavirus.

Oaks ―who was sentenced in July 2018 to 3 1/2 years in federal prison for taking $15,300 in bribes from an FBI undercover source in a political corruption probe ― wrote a hand-written motion for compassionate release, which he filed in U.S. District Court on Monday.

Oaks, 73, has served about 20 months of his sentence.

“He has a significant medical history that places him in the high risk category if he contracts the Covid-19 virus, that would likely lead to his death,” Oaks wrote in the pro-se petition.

The petition states that Oaks’ medical history includes asthma, diabetes, high cholesterol, respiratory conditions and blood pressure that was “out of control” in January, “causing his doctors’ great concern.”

The court responded by instructing Oaks to file his request for compassionate release with the warden at Federal Correctional Complex Petersburg near Richmond, Va., where he is currently serving his sentence.

If released, Oaks wrote that he plans to return to Baltimore.

Oaks is not the only high-profile politician to have a court case altered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Former Del. Cheryl Glenn (D-Baltimore City) was set to be sentenced this Friday after pleading guilty earlier this year to two federal charges stemming from a scheme in which she took $33,750 in bribes in exchange for legislation she introduced and backed in the Maryland General Assembly.

Last Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Blake sent a letter to attorneys in the case, postponing the sentencing hearing. Blake cited a standing order postponing most court proceedings through June 5, and asked the attorneys to call her chambers after that date to set a new hearing.

Last month, disgraced former Baltimore mayor Catherine E. Pugh (D) sought to delay the start of her 36-month federal prison sentence in part because of the coronavirus outbreak and to accommodate a May 14 trial on a perjury charge in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.

In an order issued last month, U.S. District Court Judge Deborah K. Chasanow extended Pugh’s self-surrender date to June 26.

The U.S. District Court sentencing dates for two other city employees related to the Pugh case have also been indefinitely postponed. Gary Brown, a long-time aide to Pugh who pleaded guilty to four charges last year, had been scheduled for sentencing in April. Roslyn Wedington, a city employee who pleaded guilty to conspiracy and filing a false tax return, had a sentencing scheduled for later this month, which is also being delayed.

According to court records, other ex-lawmakers serving federal sentences have not sought changes to their sentences, including former Prince George’s County delegates William A. Campos, Tawanna Gaines and Michael L. Vaughn.

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