Drawing on concerns about the potential spread of COVID-19 in the jail population, a man who has pleaded guilty in a case involving a fatal drug overdose in Bowling Green has asked to be released from jail until the day of his sentencing.
Damone Bell, 23, has been in Warren County Regional Jail since Feb. 11, when he pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to distributing a controlled substance and possessing a mixture of heroin and fentanyl with the intent to distribute.
Bell was accused of selling about a half-gram of fentanyl-laced heroin that led to the overdose death of 23-year-old Kaitlin McKinney of Bowling Green on July 30, 2018.
Bell’s sentencing is set for June 9 and federal prosecutors are recommending a 14-year sentence.
While the motion filed Wednesday by Bell’s attorney – federal public defender Pat Bouldin – does not provide specific information about Bell’s health, it notes the rise in coronavirus cases and details the steps Kentucky’s leadership has taken to contain the spread of the coronavirus and notes that federal courts in the Western District of the state, which includes Bowling Green, are closed until at least early May except for emergency matters.
Bouldin also argued that conditions in local jails leave inmates more vulnerable to the virus than the general public.
“Social distancing is impossible in a jail, thus exposing inmates to the grave risk of contracting COVID-19,” Bouldin said in the motion.
Inmates cycle in and out of the jail population, and jail employees also enter and leave their facilities regularly without screening, Bouldin said.
“Incarcerated people also have poorer health than the general population, and even at the best of times, medical care is limited,” Bouldin said. “Many people who are incarcerated also have chronic conditions, like diabetes, heart disease and respiratory conditions, all of which make them more vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19.”
Before Bell pleaded guilty, he spent much of his time under indictment free on bond, living with his family in Louisville.
Bouldin argued that Bell was not a danger to the community during his time on release and has no serious prior criminal history.
The ongoing pandemic also provides a reason to release Bell ahead of his sentencing, with Bouldin arguing that his chances of being exposed to the life-threatening virus will be reduced with his release.