Sex Offenders and Compassionate Release
You never hear of sex offenders getting compassionate release and there is a reason for that, but it might not be what you think. The reality is that sex offenders can get compassionate release. It actually happens all the time. You just don’t hear about it because the courts keep the opinions unpublished and off of the front pages. If you don’t know where to look, you will never hear about it.
The Case of Jeffrey Hassenflug
Take for example the case of Jeffery Hassenflug. Jeffrey was indicted on December 14, 2016 by a grand jury in the Western District of Missouri with Distribution of Child Pornography over the Internet, Receipt of Child Pornography over the Internet, and Possession of Child Pornography. He pled guilty and on October 19, 2018, the Court sentenced Hassenflug to 90 months’ imprisonment, to be followed by a 10-year term of supervised release. According to the government:
The defendant was employed as a physician at all times during the offense period. In this position the defendant potentially had access to children and the opportunity for close physical contact with children. That the defendant chose a career in which he would have the opportunity for physical contact with minors is concerning given his deviant sexual attraction to children. Additionally, it is noteworthy that while the defendant was on bond for the offense of conviction the defendant had contact with a female friend of his 10–year-old nephew. Specifically, On April 12, 2018, the defendant and his mother accompanied the defendant’s nephew and his friend to a park. The defendant admitted to pretrial officers that the mother of his nephew’s friend was not aware of his pending charges
On August 19th, 2020, Hassenflug wrote a motion himself and sent it to the court seeking immediate compassionate release due to the COVID-19 outbreak and his diagnosis with prostate cancer. The government objected to his release stating that he was on a priority list for transfer to FCI Butner for treatment and that he remained a serious danger to the community:
Nothing about the COVID-19 pandemic reduces the defendant’s danger to others. The defendant has failed to demonstrate that the factors that the Court considered at the time of sentencing have changed, therefore the Court should deny the defendant’s motion for immediate release.
On October 28th, 2020 the court granted Mr. Hassenflug’s compassionate release:
It is ORDERED, that defendant’s pro se Motion for Compassionate Release is GRANTED and the defendant’s previously imposed sentence of imprisonment is reduced to time served
Is a sex offender getting compassionate release rare?
Generally speaking, courts look at many factors including a defendants risk to the community. It is safe to assume a child pornography possession case would have a higher likelihood of achieving compassionate release than a production case in the same manner that a drug user would have a better chance than a drug kingpin. However, there is no simple answer to this question. An individuals chances of success depend on a number of factors from their sentencing judge’s opinion on sex offenders to their individual health and rehabilitation record. The best thing to do if you are considering a compassionate release is to hire an experienced attorney that can present the best argument possible for your sentencing reduction. After all, the government will have professionals on their team arguing exactly the opposite.