A federal judge on Tuesday ordered John Lynch, who admitted taking bribes to help a developer get a zoning approval he needed, freed from the federal prison in Devens so that he can spend the rest of his sentence under home confinement in Dorchester, rather than risk contracting Covid-19.
Just three weeks ago, US District Court Judge Patti Saris had denied Lynch's request for compassionate release in part because she did not feel he had served enough time on the 40-month bribery sentence he received last January, in part due to the fact that the minimum-security Devens had had no Covid-19 cases and so Lynch, who is 67 and has heart and kidney problems, was at no particular risk.
But in reversing that decision, Saris said that in the three weeks since, at least 129 Devins inmates - and possibly as many as 262 - have tested positive for Covid-19, as have numerous prison staffers, putting Lynch at particular risk should he catch the virus because of his underlying health issues.
In fact, Lynch is already in quarantine at Devins after coming into contact with somebody else who later tested positive for Covid-19, Saris wrote.
"Devins has become a hotspot," she wrote. "While the crime of accepting bribes is serious, finishing the remainder of the sentence in home confinement on an electronic bracelet is sufficient but no greater than necessary in light of the high risk of Covid. Restitution has been paid. There is no threat to public safety or risk of flight."
On Dec. 22, prison Warden Kimo Elraheb recommended Lynch be considered for home confinement because of the rapid spread of Covid-19 through Devins and his age and existing medical conditions.
Lynch had originally been scheduled for release on Feb. 14, 2023, at the end of his sentence for taking a total of $50,000 in payments to help get the Zoning Board of Appeals to issue a ruling needed by the developer of a small South Boston condo project to sell the still-pending project and its associated zoning approvals.
Federal prosecutors opposed Lynch's request for home confinement, in part because he is housed at a prison "camp," separate from the main prison facility, where the cases have occurred.
"Although there are presently no present cases in the camp, defendant was exposed due to a work assignment and is presently in quarantine," Saris wrote.