United States v. Raia, No. 20-1033 (3d Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
While running for office in Hoboken, New Jersey, Raia directed campaign volunteers to bribe voters with $50 payments to vote for him by absentee ballot and support a measure he favored. Convicted of conspiring to use the mails to promote unlawful activity, Raia was sentenced to three months imprisonment. With the government’s appeal of the sentence pending, Raia reported to the federal correctional institute. Shortly thereafter, he asked the Bureau of Prisons to move for compassionate release on his behalf. Before BOP responded, and before 30 days passed, Raia filed his own motion for compassionate release given the COVID-19 pandemic. Raia claimed he faces heightened risks because he is 68-years old and suffers from Parkinson’s Disease, diabetes, and heart issues.
The district court denied the motion, concluding that the pending appeal divested it of jurisdiction. Raia then asked the Third Circuit to decide his compassionate-release motion or to return jurisdiction to the district court by dismissing the government’s appeal. The Third Circuit rejected the motion. The First Step Act empowers criminal defendants to request compassionate release for “extraordinary and compelling reasons,” 18 U.S.C 3582(c)(1)(A)(i), but those defendants must first ask the BOP to do so on their behalf, give BOP 30 days to respond, and exhaust available administrative appeals before submitting their motion to “the [sentencing] court.”