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Former Baltimore state Sen. Nathaniel Oaks granted compassionate release from prison

Former convicted Baltimore state Sen. Nathaniel Oaks has been granted compassionate release about a month after filing for it due to health concerns amid the coronavirus.

Oaks, 73, a Democrat, pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges and has served 21 months of his 3½-year sentence.

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United States District Judge Richard D. Bennett issued a court order on Tuesday for Oaks’ release, saying the former senator exhausted the appeal process and met the standard for compassionate release because of “extraordinary and compelling reasons” due to his age and health complications. The judge said his release is “especially warranted” because of COVID-19. He also noted that Oaks has only incurred a single infraction while incarcerated, which was nonviolent.

“At 73 years of age and suffering from a variety of serious medical conditions, it is highly unlikely that Oaks will commit another serious crime,” Bennett wrote. “Oaks’s personal characteristics weigh in favor of a reduction in sentence to time served. Oaks’s crimes of wire fraud and honest services wire fraud were non-violent.”

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Oaks will be electronically monitored in home detention for the first 21 months of a three-year supervised release, the order said. He is not allowed to drink alcohol and will be required to submit to regular alcohol testing during his probation. The order said Oaks will live with his brother in Baltimore while his childhood home, also in the area, undergoes repairs.

Last month Oaks wrote a handwritten letter asking for release because he suffers from Type II diabetes, hypertension, asthma, anemia, hyperlipidemia and arthritis. He said, given the health conditions, if he contracted coronavirus it would “likely lead to his death.” There has been one known case of the virus at the Virginia facility where Oaks is held, the order said.

Oaks admitted to taking $15,300 from an FBI informant, who posed as an out-of-town developer and enlisted Oaks in a scheme to defraud the federal government.

The FBI had set up a sting that led to Oaks’ meeting the informant over dinner in 2015. Oaks ultimately agreed to help the informant defraud the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and to draft a bond bill to aid a supposed housing project the informant wanted to carry out in Baltimore.

Prosecutors later brought an obstruction-of-justice charge against Oaks, alleging that he agreed to help the FBI, then sabotaged the investigation by tipping off the target.

Before ascending to the state Senate in 2017, Oaks served 28 years in the House of Delegates. His tenure was interrupted for five years starting in 1989 after he was convicted of stealing from his campaign fund.

Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this article.

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