Emergency COVID19 Release of Melvin and Robert Dillon Letter to US Marshal Gary Shofield

Dear U.S. Marshal Gary Shofield,

VERY URGENT REQUEST!!! A number of people sent the letter below to you and other key decision makers. This was an URGENT request to release Melvin Lewis Dillon (Inmate Number 55495048) and Robert John Dillon (Inmate Number 55496048) to home confinement due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They are at a high risk for severe illness, and the urgency is no less today.

Since first sending this letter in mid-July, COVID-19 continues to be widespread in this federal prison where they are held awaiting trial. At least 7 people have been taken out of their unit with COVID-19 and Melvin and Robert were in quarantine multiple times. At least one COVID death of an incarcerated person has already occurred. Correctional Officer Scott died of “likely COVID symptoms”.

As a result of mishandling quarantine and not taking proper precautions, Robert has now tested positive for COVID19, while still struggling with diverticular bleeding, which was also mishandled. Melvin has had COVID-19 symptoms for days but has yet to be removed from his unit and brought to the infirmary.

This is no surprise. Nurses and guards continue to do their work without masks in close confines with incarcerated people. In fact, one corrections officer was yelling at an incarcerated person and got saliva all over his face. Robert was at high risk at the beginning of the pandemic. This is worsened by an unresolved health issue for which he recently received surgery. The medicines he was given lower his immune response.

While these Brothers await trial to determine their guilt or innocence, they are being terrorized by prison staff and the U.S. Marshals who have jurisdiction over where they are held, but continue to claim that only the courts can decide this.

I respectfully request that you review their details again below considering this new information, so that these brothers, who are at high risk for severe illness for COVID-19, are not issued a death sentence before they are even tried in court.

cc:
Steve Sisalak, Governor, State of Nevada
Brian Koehn, Warden, Nevada Southern Detention Center
Jacky Rosen, U.S. Senator, State of Nevada
Steven Conry, Vice President, Operations Administration, Core Civics
Catherine Cortez Masto, U.S. Senator, State of Nevada

July 13, 2020

Gary Schofield
U.S. Marshal
Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse
333 Las Vegas Boulevard S., Suite 2058
Las Vegas, NV 89101 

Re: Emergency COVID-19 Release Requests for Melvin Lewis Dillon (Inmate Number 55495048) and Robert John Dillon (Inmate Number 55496048)

Dear Marshal Schofield,

I am concerned for the welfare of Melvin Dillon and Robert Dillon, brothers who are incarcerated at the Nevada Southern Detention Center (NSDC). They await trial in federal court and therefore are your responsibility as a U.S. Marshal. As you know, their guilt or innocence have yet to be determined.

In a letter written by Mr. Melvin and Robert Dillion and shared by their mother, Mary Barbee, I have learned that NSDC is not in compliance with CDC-recommended COVID-19 protocols for detention centers and correctional institutions (bit.ly/cdccor). It is their firsthand observation that NSDC has not:

  • Screened all inmates and staff for COVID-19.
  • Accessed their stockpiles of food, medicine, and sanitation supplies.
  • Ceased movements of inmates and detainees among its facilities.
  • Implemented social distancing, including not spreading the bunk beds 6 feet apart in dormitories, which are mostly at capacity.
  • Served detainees on styrofoam plates instead of the hard plastic trays they are still given.
  • Been equipped to provide adequate care (confirmed by Warden Koehn).
  • Been honest about whether there are COVID-19 cases at NSDC. (Staff told them that there are confirmed cases.)
  • Reinforced health hygiene practices.
  • Implemented prevention strategies for staff.

Mr. Melvin Dillon and Mr. Robert Dillon both struggle with chronic lung disease and asthma. Melvin Dillon also has high blood pressure. On “Groups at Increased Risk for Severe Illness” (https://bit.ly/cdcincrisk) published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these are all recognized risk factors for severe COVID-19 illness. In addition, Robert Dillon was diagnosed with diverticulitis. He’s bled internally, worsening since mid-December, without adequate care weakening his whole system to resist infection.

The 5th Amendment Due Process Clause does not allow defendants to be punished before a trial. Yet, the mental health effects of continued concern over exposure to COVID-19 is a form of unconstitutional punishment they currently endure. If these Brothers contract COVID-19, this is another, more severe, and possible life-ending, unconstitutional punishment.

Due to concerns of COVID-19 spread, federal Attorney General William Barr directed the Bureau of Prisons to transfer all suitable candidates to home confinement (April 3, 2020 memorandum). Based on criteria offered in this memo, both Robert and Melvin would be eligible for home confinement if they were under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Prisons.  In addition, they have been recommended for emergency release under the petition filed with the Nevada Supreme Court by Defense Attorneys Michael Horvath and Michael Mcavoyamaya.

Mr. Melvin and Robert Dillon are both eligible under the CARES Act, Bail Reform Act, AG William Barr’s directives of April 3, 2020 and March 26, 2010, and the BOP Director’s directive of April 21, 2020 to be screened for release to home confinement/pre-trail release. Considering all these factors and more, their letter concludes that their civil and international human rights are being violated. 

This civil rights violation can be addressed immediately. The Bail Reform Act provides for the “temporary release of a person in pretrial custody” to the extent that the judicial officer determines such release to be necessary for the preparation of the person’s defense or for  another compelling reason.” 18 U.S.C. 3142(i). This law specifically includes people who are in the custody of a U.S. Marshal, such as Melvin and Robert Dillon, who are awaiting trial by federal court. During the period of release, Robert will be living with his wife. Melvin will be living with his Mother or home confinement in a halfway house.

The system could be sentencing Mr. Melvin and Robert Dillon to death by COVID-19 before their guilt or innocence has even been determined. For these reasons, I respectfully ask you to use your power as U.S. Marshal to release Mr. Melvin Dillon and Mr. Robert Dillon, so they may get the care and protection they need during this extraordinary international crisis.  

Sincerely,

Cc:
Steve Sisalak, Governor, State of Nevada
Brian Koehn, Warden, Nevada Southern Detention Center
Jacky Rosen, U.S. Senator, State of Nevada
Steven Conry, Vice President, Operations Administration, Core Civics