Covid-19 Pandemic Risks and Early Release from Prison: Case Review

April 20, 2021

Pandemic Risk

United States v. Rosso

United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas, Fayetteville Division

2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 74288


Sentence reduction granted in light of Covid-19 pandemic risks and rehabilitation efforts

On January 14, 1998, Robert J. Rosso, JR. was named in a one-count Indictment charging him with knowingly and intentionally combining, conspiring, confederating, and agreeing with other persons to distribute methamphetamine. After being found guilty at trial, due to the applicable statutory mandatory minimum, the court was compelled to sentence Rosso to life imprisonment. He entered federal custody in January 1998, where he has remained ever since.

Since August 2011, Rosso has had no recorded disciplinary events. In spite of his life sentence, he has used his last decade productively by obtaining his GED and completing continuing education courses. It is said that he displays a “strong work ethic” in his job as an orderly and that he receives above-average work performance ratings. Moreover, Rosso has taken the initiative to become a successful writer and has written several articles as well as a book manuscript. Further, in 2017, he married his wife. Today, Rosso is 51 years old. His medical records demonstrate that he has been diagnosed with multiple serious medical conditions, including recurrent superficial bladder cancer, hypertension and cardiac issues. In addition,  Rosso’s medical records show that he experiences chronic back pain and has an elevated amount of prostate-specific antigens (“PSA”) in his blood, which may indicate the presence of prostate cancer.

As a release plan, Mr. Rosso proposes that he return to his family farm, where his parents, sister, and brother-in-law presently reside. His sister states that the farm includes two separate houses and that Rosso is welcome to reside in one of the homes with his elderly parents. She points out that Mr. Rosso will be able to isolate on the farm in order to avoid contracting COVID-19. Furthermore, she indicates that Mr. Rosso will assist her and her husband in caring for their aging parents.

With all of that in mind, including the ongoing pandemic risk, the court granted the request for reduction of sentence, reducing Rosso’s term of imprisonment to 300 months.