Convicted former Cleveland City Councilman Kenneth Johnson on Tuesday asked a judge to order his release from federal prison because of a myriad of health issues.
Johnson, 76, asked for compassion release, which allows for inmates to be released early for “extraordinary and compelling reasons,” including advanced age or serious illness.
Johnson is serving asix-year sentence in a federal prison in Lexington, Kentucky, after a jury found him guilty in 2021 of orchestrating several schemes in which he stole from the city and federal government.
A three-judge panel of 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in May ruled against Johnson’s request to be released on bond while he appeals his case.
Johnson wrote in an application filed in court on Tuesday that he suffers from arthritis in his knee, sleep apnea and a severe blood-clotting disorder. He also wrote that he suffers from “long COVID,” which causes him “periodic confusion and memory loss.”
He also included in his application that he completed a parenting program during his 10 months in prison.
Compassionate releases are rare, according to a study released in March by the U.S. Sentencing Commission. In fiscal year 2020, judges across the country granted compassionate releases in 25.7% of cases, but most of those inmates were released because of the COVID-19 pandemic. That year, more than 12 times the amount of inmates were released compared to 2019. In Ohio courts that year, only four compassionate releases were granted that were not COVID-19 related.
Johnson served on Cleveland City Council for more than four decades. He was accused of siphoning tens of thousands of dollars from council by signing off on reimbursements for work that was never performed, then pocketing the money.
A jury also found he underpaid his taxes and steered grant money to keep his adopted sons on the payroll of the Buckeye-Shaker Square Development Corp. that Johnson helped fund as a councilman.
Three others were convicted in the investigation. Johnson’s longtime assistant, Garnell Jamison, was sentenced to five years in prison and John Hopkins, the former director of the development corporation, was sentenced to three months in prison.
Robert Fitzpatrick, a former manager of the city’s parks and recreation department who knew Johnson as a teen, was sentenced to three years of probation. Fitzpatrick cooperated with the FBI investigation and testified against Johnson during the trial. He said he signed timesheets but never did any work.
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