Ex-Adelphia CEO seeks prison release due to cancer

By Nate Raymond

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Former Adelphia Communications Corp CEO John Rigas, who is serving a 12-year sentence for his role in a fraud that led to the cable company’s collapse, is seeking release from prison due to his “precipitously deteriorating health.”

Lawyers for Rigas, who was convicted in 2004 for participating in a massive securities fraud, filed papers in federal court in Manhattan on Friday seeking his release on bail due to a “terminal” resurgence of cancer.

Rigas’ lawyers have been seeking to overturn his conviction due to alleged prosecutorial misconduct, and say forcing him to remain in custody any further would mean any ruling in his favor would render it a “pyrrhic (and posthumous) victory.”

The prison in Pennsylvania where Rigas is incarcerated is preparing to grant him a compassionate release, the lawyers wrote. But that process could take six months, more time than he may have, they said.

“In view of the rather dire urgency here, Mr. Rigas asks that the court order his immediate release on bail,” his lawyers wrote.

In an order late Monday, U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood ordered prosecutors to respond by Dec. 22. Representatives for Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Rigas and his son, former Adelphia Chief Financial Officer Timothy Rigas, were found guilty in 2004 of conspiring to conceal Adelphia’s debt and use corporate funds and assets for their own benefit.

The Adelphia case, along with Enron and WorldCom, was one of the biggest corporate fraud prosecutions in recent years. Adelphia was the fifth-largest U.S. cable firm before its 2002 collapse.

Rigas was initially sentenced to 15 years in prison, but after a federal appeals court threw out one of his convictions, his sentence was reduced to 12 years. His lawyers say even before the diagnosis, he was eligible for release in early 2017.

Rigas was diagnosed with bladder cancer before entering prison, and doctors discovered a recurrence several months ago, his lawyers said. Rigas’ not only has cancer in his bladder but also tumors on his lung and kidney, they say.

Prison personnel and one of the doctors have told family members Rigas’ condition is terminal, the lawyers wrote, and have suggested the possibility of hospice care.

Timothy Rigas, 59, is serving a 17-year prison term and is being held in the same prison as his father.

The case is Rigas v. U.S., U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 11-06964.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Alistair Bell)