Bill Cosby’s lawyers are filing a motion to get him released from his Pennsylvania jail and put on house arrest amid reports that at least one prison officer has tested positive for COVID-19.
Cosby, 82, is serving three to 10 years at SCI Phoenix in Montgomery County, and his attorneys are preparing to file a petition at Pennsylvania Superior Court in the next few days seeking for him to be moved to house arrest.
The disgraced comic has a 9,000-square-foot mansion in Elkins Park, Pa., where he had lived under house arrest with his wife, Camille, after he was found guilty of sexual assault in 2018.
The move by Cosby’s lawyers comes as the Trump administration considers the release of some federal prisoners in an attempt to reduce the risk of a larger outbreak of coronavirus in the nation’s prison system.
Cosby spokesman Andrew Wyatt told Page Six, “We believe it is only a matter of time before Mr. Cosby’s prison likely falls victim to the virus, such a confined space is the perfect place for a virus to spread rapidly, it is hazardous to the prison staff and vulnerable inmates.
“Bill Cosby is no detriment or danger to the community. He can’t go anywhere, he is elderly, he is blind. He can stay under house arrest with an ankle bracelet, as he did before, with his wife taking care of him. Let him do his time at home.”
Wyatt said he’d been informed that more than one prison officer at the facility had tested positive for COVID-19, though officials at SCI Phoenix, when contacted by Page Six on Wednesday, would not confirm or deny this.
He continued, “We are now preparing a motion to ask the court and the state to release Mr. Cosby from prison and place him under house arrest for the duration of his sentence.
“We are not doing this because he is Bill Cosby, our concern is that he is 82, he is blind and has close contact with workers who take him to his medical appointments every day in a wheelchair, they take him for his meals and clean his cell. If they get infected, they could pass it on to him.”
President Trump on Sunday acknowledged the potential vulnerability of elderly inmates, saying the administration was weighing a move to release “totally nonviolent prisoners” or put them on house arrest to avoid coronavirus outbreaks in federal prisons and protect prison staff.
Wyatt said Cosby — who filed a new appeal of his sexual assault conviction in January — had not been tested for the virus and said, “He’s feeling fine other than being blind and his blood pressure spiking at different times,” adding he has his vitals checked every morning, currently does not have a fever and is not exhibiting symptoms of coronavirus. “We would not want a test to be wasted on him when he has no symptoms. But our concern is that he is really in a difficult situation.”
Inmate rights advocates and epidemiologists nationwide have described prison conditions as a tinderbox for the spread of COVID-19 with inmates living in close quarters, sharing bathrooms and spaces to eat, without room to allow social distancing.
“Without immediate action, jails and prisons will be the epicenter of the pandemic,” Nyssa Taylor, policy counsel for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said a few days ago.
The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections last week imposed restrictions on family visits, provided more soap to inmates, and started to screen staff every day for symptoms of COVID-19 to keep the virus outside prisons’ walls, officials said.
It has been reported that geriatric prisoners account for nearly 10 percent of Pennsylvania’s total prison population, and if that population becomes infected, prisons would have to turn to already overstressed hospitals, often in rural areas near the lockups, to treat inmates.
John Wetzel, Pennsylvania’s corrections secretary, said earlier this week that releasing inmates wasn’t an easy option. “We have zero discretion to release inmates from state prison,” he said, adding that if the legislature approached him to create criteria to furlough certain prisoners, he would do that. “But it’s not so simple. Release them to what? Do they have a place to go? Do they have health care? There’s a bunch of considerations.”