Court: No Compassionate Release for Silk Road Vendor

A District Court judge denied a motion for compassionate release filed by Hugh Haney, a convicted Silk Road vendor and money launderer. The vendor, according to court documents, fears that he faces a higher risk of falling ill from contracting COVID-19 than many of his fellow inmates.

The Board of Prisons is able to release inmates prior to their scheduled release date for “particularly extraordinary or compelling circumstances which could not reasonably have been foreseen by the court at the time of sentencing.” This includes inmates with certain medical conditions as well as elderly inmates that meet the BOP’s non-medical release requirements (PDF).

Hugh Haney in his mugshot

Hugh Haney in his mugshot

Hugh Haney, 61, is serving a 42-month prison sentence for laundering narcotics proceeds through a Bitcoin exchange. In Haney’s plea agreement, Haney admitted selling narcotics on Silk Road in 2011 and in 2012. Later, in 2018, Haney attempted to exchange $19 million for cash using a Bitcoin exchange based in New York.

The exchange flagged the transaction and asked Haney how he had obtained $19 million in Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash. Haney told the exchange that he had mined the Bitcoin and that he had invested $10,000 in Bitcoin before the price of Bitcoin had skyrocketed. The exchange froze the account and contacted law enforcement.

A federal judge signed a search warrant that authorized law enforcement to seize Haney’s account at the exchange. Through the use of blockchain analysis software (and possibly other methods or tools), an Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Special Agent and a Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent identified the Silk Road as the source of Haney’s Bitcoin (they identified Bitcoin addresses linked to the marketplace). He had earned a total of 3,892.9 Bitcoin through his Silk Road vendor account.

Motion for Compassionate Release

PDF available here.

Hugh Brian Haney, through undersigned counsel, respectfully moves the Court to modify his sentence and immediately release him to home confinement and a period of supervised release. The unprecedented threat of COVID-19 could not have been foreseen at sentencing, and poses extraordinary risks to Mr. Haney’s health. The virus thrives in densely packed populations, and the MDC is ill-equipped to contain the pandemic and prevent COVID-19 from becoming a de facto death sentence for Mr. Haney. Mr. Haney’s age – 61 years old – makes him especially vulnerable to the deadly risks of COVID-19, and the MDC has placed Mr. Haney on its list of inmates who are at high risk of contracting and succumbing to COVID-19. Allowing Mr. Haney to finish out his sentence at home is the only prudent response to the extraordinary and compelling circumstances created by the novel coronavirus. Moreover, Mr. Haney has a safe place to live, where he will have the best opportunity of surviving this pandemic, and for the reasons described in our sentencing memorandum, the Court can expect that Mr. Haney will be wholly compliant with home detention and all the other conditions of release.

The motion, filed on March 31, 2010, argues that Haney is at a greater risk of serious complications from COVID-19 due to his age (61) as well as his former alcoholism and opioid addiction. The motion also reveals that Haney is one of 500 “high risk” inmates as defined by the Center for Disease Control.

The MDC has disclosed to the Chief Judges that as of March 25, 2020, over 500 inmates – including Mr. Haney – are considered high-risk within the CDC’s definition, creating a powerful likelihood that the coronavirus will spread throughout the facility, and particularly endanger the at-risk inmates.

The First Step Act allows an inmate to file a motion in federal court seeking compassionate release but only after either exhausting administrative review of a BOP denial of his request or after 30 days had passed since he made his request. Haney meets neither requirement.

Extraordinary and compelling circumstances

Extraordinary and compelling reasons exist when:

Haney fails to meet any of the above criteria. In addition to being only 61 years old, Haney is in “reasonably good health” with none of the underlying conditions as described by the CDC. However, the court recognized that his age placed him at more risk than many inmates.

But if Haney’s age alone were a sufficient factor to grant compassionate release in these circumstances, it follows that every federal inmate in the country above the age of 60 should be forthwith released from detention, a result that does not remotely comply with the limited scope of compassionate release and that would arguably have a devastating effect on a national community that is now itself so under stress.


Haney’s attorneys had prepared for a denial of the compassionate release motion; they argued that the court could temporarily release Haney “for some period –- perhaps three to six months.” Then, at an unspecified date in the future, the court could remand Haney into custody and modify his sentence to account for the time served while outside the detention center. Haney suggests that there are no fewer than six ways that a court is authorized to grant such relief.

He argued that the First Step Act gives the courts the power to “reduce the term of imprisonment” under the compassionate release provisions. The court rejected this on the grounds that a sentence reduction does not include a temporary release.

The defense argues that the Court can temporarily release Haney by granting the instant motion, reducing his sentence to time served, and then later reconsidering its decision based on changed circumstances after the COVID-19 risks subside.

The court is not about to engage in such obvious hypocrisy, and it doubts, moreover, that, having given Haney a final order of time served, it could constitutionally then re-open the matter and sentence him to years in prison.

Haney is only a couple of months into his sentence; a court sentenced him to 42 months in prison in February 2020. It is unlikely he will see a release before he serves 85% of his sentence.

7 Comments

government is mans worst enemy

Thu, Apr 16, 2020

This is fucked, poor guy. Whoever denied him for release should get fucked in the ass by the biggest blackest meanest pornstar, the mans already lost his freedom, now he's risking losing his life for non violent charges... I think it was non violent i didnt read through honestly. Just feel bad for the fella

mitch

Sun, Apr 19, 2020

you took all his money let him out you guys stole his 20 million . minus well let the guy out so thats beyond cold and cruel. let him out let him out let him out hes to old to be in jail.

fucktheopps

Mon, Apr 20, 2020

feelsbad :(

lol serves him right

Wed, Apr 22, 2020

lol serves him right, y’all mfs feeling sorry for this dumb bitch is just too funny :D Congrats to the judge for doing the right thing.

idiot

Thu, Apr 23, 2020

why the FUCK would he try to cash out 20mln at once? why the fuck werent his coins tumbled/swapped? they wouldve never been able to link them to SR had he done something as simple as that.... and not try to cash out 20mln at once LMAO..... do it little by little. this guy was low hanging fruit

Bad mr Frosty

Sun, May 3, 2020

I agree, they already stripped him of his 20 million and ruined his life. They should let the guy out.

Yes, he was foolish to try to cash out 19 million at once. He should have just sold in blocks of $4200 and scaled out slowly over many years

Frosty

Thu, May 14, 2020

whoooooo in the hell tries to cash out $19m in one transaction sometimes i feel these stories are downplayed by LE to make people think they can do one better than the people thats been caught surely no one is that stupid

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