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State Rescinds Medical Parole After 2 Men Appeared To Recover From COVID-19

The state has rescinded medical parole that was granted to two men who were seriously ill with COVID-19.

Because the men now appear to be recovering, they have been sent back to prison.

Nelson Rodriquez, 57, and John Stote, 61, were granted medical parole in January. Both men, who each have been incarcerated for more than two decades, were taken back into state custody on Monday.

Stote was hospitalized with COVID in January at Lemuel Shattuck Hospital and was intubated for more than three weeks. Stote's medical release plan called for him to be placed in his daughter's care Tuesday. Instead, he was taken into custody at the hospital on Monday night.

Stote's release became controversial — prompting some Massachusetts leaders to call for changes in the state medical parole law and exempting those convicted of first-degree murder. Stote was convicted in 1997 of killing John Regan, of Springfield.

"The family affected by this brutal murder live with it every day, and no family should have to go through this," Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said. "There is no way that person should have been let out. There are medical facilities in prison that can deal with him. I'm happy it was rescinded."

Sarno said he is talking with state lawmakers about changing the state medical parole law to ban the release of those convicted of murder.

Regan's daughter, Maureen Moriarty, of Springfield, said she understands the need for medical parole for some of those incarcerated, but she does not believe Stote should be set free.

"I think he should die in jail," Moriarty said. "It should be the realization of the expectation that life in prison means life when someone murders somebody. I'm relieved that a wrong has been put right."

Stote's attorney declined to comment.

Rodriquez's attorney Rebecca Rose said she was not notified about the change in her client's medical parole before she learned he was taken into custody Monday. Rose said Rodriquez's family was told he was arrested because he no longer qualified for medical parole and was taken to MCI-Cedar Junction in Norfolk.

"There was no notice or warning at all, just a knock on the door," Rose said. "I do not have any paperwork yet. The parole board did not notify me, his attorney, and still hasn’t sent me a copy of the warrant, despite my request."

State public safety officials said because both men appear to have recovered from COVID, they no longer qualify for medical parole. Parole board hearings on the men's status are expected to be held within two weeks.

"By statute, medical parole is reserved for those inmates who are terminally ill or permanently incapacitated, and whose condition is so debilitating that the inmate does not pose a public safety risk," a state parole board spokesman said in an emailed statement. "The statute also requires that a person be returned to custody if they have recovered from the medical condition that made them eligible for medical parole, and the Parole Board carefully reviews each case to make this determination.”

Ruth Greenberg, an attorney who represents several people who are imprisoned and seeking medical parole, said "The parolees broke no rules, and they are accused only of improving health."

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"Arrest was discretionary — not required," she added. "The Constitution requires due process and a hearing, and statutes and regulations must, of course, be constitutional."

State data show that 47 petitions for medical parole were approved for those incarcerated in Department of Correction facilities. The number of those actually released after a petition is approved is not clear.

The DOC said 21 incarcerated men have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

That number does not include at least two men who were granted medical parole hours before their deaths. Their deaths are excluded from the total because they were considered no longer in state custody when they died.

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Deborah Becker Twitter Host/Reporter
Deborah Becker is a senior correspondent and host at WBUR. Her reporting focuses on mental health, criminal justice and education.

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