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Long IslandNassau

Inmate freed to seek heart transplant

Diane McCloud is brought to Nassau County Court

Diane McCloud is brought to Nassau County Court from the Nassau University Medical Center prison wing, where she was jailed on larceny charges. (Jan. 20, 2011) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

A jailed Hempstead woman in desperate need of a new heart now has a chance to get one - following a judge's decision to free her from her petty larceny sentence so she can seek a transplant.

Diane McCloud, 47, arrived in District Court in Mineola by ambulance Thursday- on a hospital bed and hooked up to an intravenous drip that helps keep her heart pumping.

For the past month, McCloud, suffering from end-stage heart failure, has been a patient in a wing for county jail inmates at the Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow.

McCloud - whose doctors say will die if she does not receive a transplant in six months - had been serving a 15-month sentence at the Nassau jail.

She pleaded guilty to two counts of stealing about $3,800 in merchandise from a Westbury Target store on two occasions in 2009 and 2010. She took the merchandise while on parole from Bedford Hills Correctional Facility on a larceny conviction.

McCloud would not have been eligible for early release with good behavior until August.

District Court Judge Francis Ricigliano said McCloud's guilty plea will stand but that he was vacating her sentence and will resentence her after her medical condition is resolved.

Back at the hospital but no longer in a jail area, McCloud said she's hoping for a new heart and a new life.

"This is a second chance," said McCloud, who began serving her sentence for the petty larceny conviction in November.

Before her guilty plea to petty larceny, McCloud had served time for felony larceny and has other past convictions, said her attorney, Leonard Isaacs of Valley Stream.

Ricigliano thanked Isaacs and the district attorney's office for working together to free McCloud.

Isaacs said McCloud "knew she had a heart problem," but her condition worsened in December. He said Nassau doesn't pay for heart transplants for inmates - but now McCloud can receive Medicaid coverage if she is approved for a transplant.

And she can now travel to a transplant center for screening to see if she is eligible for one.

But there are no guarantees she will receive a heart in time.

"It's a very long road she has to travel," said Dr. Sanjay Doddamani, chief of cardiology at NUMC.

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