A man incarcerated at the Lompac Federal Penitentiary wants out, arguing that the COVID-19 pandemic is an exceptional reason for his release pending appeal of his case in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, but the District Court Chief Judge disagrees.
Eder Cortez-Zelaya was convicted in a 2014 drug case involving conspiracy to smuggle methamphetamine from Las Vegas to Guam through the postal system.
Cortez-Zelaya filed an appeal to overturn his convictions which include conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, money laundering and unlawful use of the mail to facilitate distribution of meth.
Cortez-Zelaya’s arguments for his release hinge on three factors: the successful appeals by his co-defendants, a lack of criminal history prior to the offense, and the current health risks posed to incarcerated individuals by the COVID-19 virus.
While Cortez-Zelaya points out that the facility he is housed in, Lompac, has six confirmed COVID-19 cases, the Chief Judge is not convinced.
The judge stated that “the court is ultimately not convinced that this case is so exceptional as to override the Congressional policy favoring incarceration pending appeal of convictions involving serious drug offenses.”
In addition, the judge stated that Cortez-Zelaya has not clearly shown that there are exceptional reasons why his detention would not be appropriate.
Based on this, Chief Judge Tydingco-Gatewood has denied the motion for release pending appeal.