A federal judge today denied requests for leniency, in the wake of the pandemic, from two of the top conspirators in the Dallas County Schools corruption case – former Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway and the man who bribed him, Louisiana businessman Robert Leonard.
A lawyer for Caraway, once seen as a future mayoral contender, had argued he should be released to home confinement because keeping him behind federal prison bars increased his risk of getting COVID-19 – a possible “death sentence,” they maintained, because of his underlying health conditions.
But federal Judge Barbara Lynn, who sentenced Caraway to 4 & 1/2 years in prison for his admitted role in the DCS scandal, was not swayed, ruling in court documents that the 68-year-old disgraced politician did not prove any “extraordinary and compelling” reason to be sent home from the West Texas prison where he is being held, and she added that the court lacks authority to place him on home confinement, a status typically determined by Bureau of Prisons.
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Judge Lynn also was not moved by arguments on behalf of the 72-year-old Leonard, once owner of a school bus camera company and the mastermind of the conspiracy, who, according to court records, got COVID-19 in a Louisiana prison and has since recovered.
Leonard’s lawyers had argued his age and underlying ailments made him vulnerable to the spread of the virus in the federal lockup, where he’s serving a seven-year sentence, and that he should be moved into home confinement.
Lynn said in her ruling that “the court does not downplay the defendant’s chronic medical conditions… or discount that being confined in a prison makes it more difficult for him or any prisoner to follow official precautions for social distancing and handwashing while in custody.”
But in denying Leonard’s request, she said she also considered the fact that he had shown no symptoms from the virus and has since recovered.
“…as defendant acknowledges and his medical records confirm, he tested positive for COVID-19, was asymptomatic, and fully recovered, suggesting the BOP is capable of handling defendant’s health conditions,” Lynn wrote.
Attorneys for Caraway and Leonard could not immediately be reached for comment.
Judge Lynn has repeatedly expressed her displeasure with those involved in the DCS corruption case, which cost taxpayers more than $100 million and forced the closure of the once-venerable Dallas County Schools, a provider of school buses in much of North Texas.
In denying Leonard’s request, Lynn reminded him that the scandal was “very serious.”
When she sentenced Caraway last year, she noted how long the conspiracy had operated and told him in open court, “Something that goes on for six years is hard to call a mistake. At some point, it becomes a habit.”
Caraway and Leonard are among many inmates who have sought early release because of the spread of COVID-19 throughout their ranks. The largest outbreak right now, according to records, is at the federal prison in Seagoville, southeast of Dallas, where more than 1,200 inmates have tested positive.
*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.
**County totals below include all 32 North Texas counties, not just Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant.