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Federal judge orders the release of Baltimore man awaiting trial amid coronavirus outbreak

A federal judge on Wednesday granted the emergency release of a 50-year-old Baltimore man who was arrested last month on gun and drug charges, according to court documents.

Derrick Boone first appeared in court on March 12, and a detention hearing was held four days later. At the hearing his lawyers argued that he should be released pending trial because of a preexisting medical condition that put him at risk for contracting COVID-19, the deadly disease caused by the new coronavirus.

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Boone suffers from asthma and high blood pressure, court documents say.

A federal judge denied his request at the time, agreeing with prosecutors that he “poses a risk to the safety of other persons in the community.” The court did invite Boone to file a motion for reconsideration.

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At the time, there were no reported positive cases of COVID-19 in the state’s jails and prisons, court documents say.

But on Wednesday prosecutors and defense attorneys reached an agreement to release him to the custody of his mother, with conditions sharply curtailing his movement. He also must check in regularly with court officials.

The joint motion to release him relied heavily on the growing number of reported cases of COVID-19 among inmates and staff throughout the Baltimore prison system.

Boone was being held at the Metropolitan Transition Center, which since his last court appearance has reported several positive cases of COVID-19.

In light of the outbreaks in other Maryland prisons, along with the transition center being placed on full quarantine after a corrections officer there tested positive, Assistant United States Attorney Brandon Moore and Assistant Federal Public Defender Maggie Grace came to an agreement on Boone’s release.

The court motions cited several stories from The Baltimore Sun detailing the deteriorating conditions in Maryland prisons and the rapidly growing cases of infected inmates, correctional officers and contractual staff.

The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services has reported 93 cases of coronavirus — 77 of those cases were found inside of Maryland prison facilities directly — a significant jump from 57 total cases just a week before.

One inmate in his 60s has died, according to the department.

The court ordered Boone to “comply with all directives from federal, state, and local government pertaining to public health, including COVID-19.”

Boone was indicted on eight charges last month stemming from a Dec. 19, 2019, incident, including possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking, possession with intent to distribute, conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance, and possession of firearm by a prohibited person, according to court documents.

Other Baltimore inmates have since voiced their complaints about the unclean prison facility conditions, including Travis Gary and John Waters III, two inmates located in the Baltimore City Correctional Center, directly across from the Metropolitan Transition Center.

In other court changes, late Tuesday afternoon, Maryland Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera ordered trial courts to identify and release prisoners statewide who are at-risk for the coronavirus and pose no threat to public safety.

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Barbera’s order opens the door for state prisoners to be released on a case-by-case basis. In addition, the closing of courts has been extended through June 5.

Close to a month ago, Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced she would stop prosecuting anyone arrested for possessing drugs including heroin, attempted distribution of any drug, prostitution, trespassing, minor traffic offenses, open container and urinating in public.

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