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Obese prisoner seeks release to mom's Riverhead home due to virus

Terrill Latney.

Terrill Latney. Credit: SCPD

A federal judge Thursday ruled that an associate of the Bloods street gang, awaiting sentencing for murder, doesn’t qualify for release from a federal jail despite his claim that his “morbid obesity” puts him at heightened risk for the coronavirus.

Terrill Latney, 40, of Riverhead, who weighs 460 pounds and is about six feet, asked to be released from the federal jail in Sunset Park to his mother’s home in Riverhead for the next several months until the threat of the pandemic passes.

U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert said that while her decision was “a close call,”  a number of factors led to it, including Latney’s long criminal history, his association with a violent gang, his overall medical history, and the fact that he shortly faces sentencing.

Attorneys say Latney faces 30 years to life in prison.

Latney is also one of more than 500 inmates at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn in a separate suit brought by federal public defenders seeking the prisoners' release on grounds that they are at risk for the virus, according to Latney's attorney Neil Checkman. Most federal prisoners from Long Island are housed at MDC.

Seybert's decision on Latney also comes at time when the federal prison system has begun enforcing a lockdown of all prisoners in their cells for two weeks in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus      

The judge's ruling came after a telephone conference, in which Checkman argued that his client had no motive to flee and would no longer be a danger to the community if released under monitoring. His client is only “a physically impaired and very frightened man,” Checkman said.

Checkman said the jail's conditions made inmates “sitting ducks” to the virus, with even food service workers being only issued gloves, but not face masks, and few detainees being tested.

Eastern District prosecutors Nicole Boeckmann and Michael Maffei disputed Checkman’s arguments, noting that Latney was a drug dealer and an associate of the Red Stone Guerillas set of the Bloods on the East End who had participated in a killing during a botched gang assault. The prosecutors added that the jail is taking steps to mitigate the virus.

Seybert normally holds hearings at the federal court in Central Islip. But almost all federal and state court hearings have been conducted telephonically because of the virus.