ROCKFORD – Rita Crundwell today asked to withdraw her federal court motion seeking compassionate release, "in light of actions taken by the warden of the Pekin Correctional Facility."
"Ms. Crundwell intends to pursue administrative appeal procedures available to her through the Bureau of Prisons," her appointed attorney, federal defender Paul E. Gaziano, said in his motion to withdraw.
She asks the her motion be dismissed without prejudice, which would allow her to refile her request if need be.
As of end of day today, U.S. District Court Judge Philip G. Reinhard had not filed a response.
Neither Frederick Entzel, warden of Pekin federal prison, where she is housed, nor Gaziano were available this afternoon to explain the actions Entzel has taken to which the motion refers.
Crundwell is asking to be released in the wake of Attorney General William Barr's March 26 memo to the Bureau of Prisons, advising that inmates deemed high risk, based on Centers for Disease Control COVID-19 guidelines, be released to home confinement if they meet certain criteria under the federal First Step Act.
By statute, Crundwell first must seek "administrative relief" from Entzel, which she did in a letter submitted April 22. Entzel has 30 days in which to either deny the request or make an appeal on her behalf; Friday is day 30.
Federal court was her backup if Entzel failed to act in he behalf, which is why Crundwell filed her motion seeking early release.
Wednesday, Gaziano had sought and was granted a 2-week extension to come up with the documentation needed to support the former Dixon comptroller's request. That request is now moot.
Crundwell, perpetrator of the biggest municipal theft in the history of this country, is seeking early release because of multiple health issues that she says have put her in fear of her life should she contract COVID-19.
No cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Pekin prison, however, conditions appear to be heading in a more favorable direction for a potential release to home confinement.
The 2018 First Step Act is a prison reform measure that, among other things, seeks to reduce the federal inmate population by releasing those inmates deemed to be at low risk of reoffending and of no danger to the public, given factors such as age, health, behavior while in prison and a place to go once released. It is under its auspices that Crundwell seeks to be sent home.
The act requires the BOP, "to the extent practicable, to place prisoners with lower risk levels and lower needs on home confinement."
To date, however, very few prisoners who have sought home confinement have been granted it.
Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat, and Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, a Republican, are co-authors of the bipartisan act.
In a joint news release today, they said Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz will "consider a broader set of concerns in his investigation into whether facilities housing Bureau of Prison (BOP) inmates are complying with available guidance and best practices regarding preventing, managing, and containing COVID-19 outbreaks to address several serious issues affecting the safety of federal correctional officers and inmates and surrounding local communities.
When it comes to compassionate release requests, Horowitz will consider "whether BOP is fully and expeditiously implementing relevant legislative authorities and directives from the Attorney General to release or transfer vulnerable inmates to home confinement to help slow the spread of COVID-19," and "whether the Attorney General’s guidance regarding the release or transfer of vulnerable inmates is consistent with best practices to help slow the spread of COVID-19."
Reinhard sentenced Crundwell on Feb. 14, 2013, to 17 years and 5 months for wire fraud. She stole close to $54 million over 20 years from her employer, the city of Dixon, where she had worked since high school, and used the money to create a horse-breeding empire and to maintain an opulent lifestyle far beyond the reach of most municipal employees.
“I know at my sentencing you felt I was not given a death sentence with my projected age of release of 77, but now with my deteriorating health condition, and the danger of the COVID-19 pandemic, I feel I have been given a death sentence,” Crundwell wrote in a 7-and-a-half page handwritten letter to Reinhard, filed April 27 in federal court in Rockford.
In it, Crundwell cites several reasons she believes she meets the criteria for compassionate release. They include her age, 67; health issues; her status as model, minimum-security prisoner – which already has shaved 5 months off her sentence – and her re-entry plan, to live with her brother Richard Humphrey on his farm in Dixon.
Originally set to be released March 5, 2030, her new release date is Oct. 29, 2029.
To be released because of the virus, the BOP has said it is prioritizing prisoners who have served at least half of their sentences, or who have 18 months or less left and have served 25% of their sentences.
Crundwell is 2 years away from the half-way mark.
That policy appears to be one Horowitz will be considering.
In her letter she cites “several" health issues, including chronic hypertension, high cholesterol, chronic pain from severe scoliosis, and a pinched sciatic nerve in her lower back, a hip replacement 3 years ago caused by arthritis, and damaged kidneys.
"I also just had a mass removed April 20, 2020, from under my right arm that they were afraid might be a malignant tumor due to my long family history of cancer,” she wrote.
Despite her claims, the city of Dixon is adamantly opposed to Crundwell serving even one minute less than the sentence she was dispensed.
"Rita lived a life of luxury while Dixon's roadways crumbled, public infrastructure was neglected, public safety services were denied necessary funding and city employees took mulitiyear pay freezes," City Manager Danny Langloss wrote in a letter to the court, submitted this week.
"The damage she has done, both financially and psychologically, was and remains unprecedented. Early release of Rita Crundwell would destroy trust and confidence in our great judicial system, send a dangerous message to any public official considering theft, and reignite the rage and anger that our Dixon community has worked so hard to overcome."
Langloss was chief of police when Crundwell was arrested at City Hall on April 17, 2012.