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Judge denies sentence reduction request

Decision based on lack of 'extraordinary and compelling reasons'

A federal judge has denied a prison inmate’s request to have his prison sentence cut short. 

Defendant James Edward Sandford filed a motion seeking compassionate release and a reduction of his 13-year sentence. 

Sandford, whose projected release date is in May 2026, was convicted of firearms offenses and witness tampering.

Sandford previously lost two appeals seeking a reduced sentence to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. 

“Generally, a sentence once imposed is fixed and may not be altered or reduced,” U.S. District Court Judge David G. Larimer wrote in a recent decision. 

Larimer noted that there are “limited circumstances under which a sentence may be reduced in the court’s discretion.” 

“Most deal with extraordinary medical conditions suffered by an inmate,” Larimer wrote. 

To be considered for early release, an inmate must demonstrate “extraordinary and compelling reasons” that justify a sentence reduction, Larmer wrote. 

“Defendant has filed a lengthy and thoughtful motion for relief. It does not however convince me that extraordinary and compelling reasons exist for a sentence reduction,” Larimer wrote. 

Sandford claimed in court filings that he is “a different person than he was when convicted and sentenced.” 

Sandford listed many courses and programs he has successfully completed in prison and claims he is now rehabilitated. 

“It does appear that the defendant has taken significant steps towards rehabilitation, and I applaud that. Rehabilitation is not, however, a basis for reducing a legally-imposed sentence,” Larimer wrote. 

“What must be demonstrated is something exceptional,” he wrote. 

Sandford wrote that he wants to be released to more effectively monitor and control his teenage son who is on probation “and is behaving badly in many respects,” Larimer wrote. 

“The defendant claims that he is singularly capable of counselling his son. Defendant apparently has frequent occasions to speak to his son while incarcerated. Families of incarcerated individuals often face significant consequences based on a defendant’s conviction and sentence,” Larimer wrote. 

Larimer pointed out that Sandford has been convicted of very serious crimes, including distributing dangerous drugs to minors, and questioned whether Sandford “is truly in the best position to monitor and supervise his son.” 

Sandford also sought release because of concern over his father’s health, the danger of COVID in jail facilities, and his own health, including lack of dental care.  

“Regarding defendant’s own health concerns, it appears that he is otherwise healthy and is classified at the lowest medical care level: medical care level I. He has none of the serious medical conditions that make one especially at risk of being infected with the COVID virus,” Larimer wrote. 

Government attorneys pointed out in court filings that Sandford has refused three times to take the COVID vaccine. In addition, there are virtually no inmates or staff members with COVID at Federal Correctional Institute Raybrook, in Essex County, where Sandford is currently incarcerated. 

“In sum, I do not believe that the reasons advanced by defendant, whether considered separately or together, amount to an extraordinary and compelling reason to reduce the original sentence imposed by this Court,” Larimer wrote. 

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