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Fyre Festival creator Billy McFarland requests early prison release amid coronavirus pandemic

Billy McFarland attends Magnises and Emir Bahadir host the White Party at Private Residence on March 2, 2014 in New York City. Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Billy McFarland, the convicted fraudster responsible for the 2017 Fyre Festival scam, has requested to be released from prison early amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Saying he is “particularly vulnerable to catching and suffering from severe or fatal consequences of the [novel coronavirus],” the 28-year-old — through his lawyers — pleaded to a U.S. district court judge for an early end to his six-year sentence on Tuesday, according to court documents obtained by the Hollywood Reporter (THR).

The Fyre Festival is a defunct luxury music festival that left thousands of clueless attendees stranded at a run-down, half-built concert site in the Bahamas in April 2017. It was co-founded by McFarland and American rapper Ja Rule and was documented in Netflix‘s 2019 film Fyre.

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Since March 2018, McFarland has been incarcerated at Elkton prison — Ohio’s only federal prison — where 60 inmates have tested positive for the coronavirus and six have died as a result of complications from COVID-19, as reported by Dispatch.

Click to play video: 'Fyre Festival descends into chaos, frustration, leaving rich festival-goers angry'
Fyre Festival descends into chaos, frustration, leaving rich festival-goers angry

With the threat and concern surrounding the global health crisis, certain inmates — often well-behaved ones — have been granted early, or at least temporary, release from prison to cut down on the spread, according to THR.

READ MORE: Paul McCartney to Howard Stern — Chinese wet markets should be shut down

McFarland’s attorneys cited those examples in an attempt to sway Judge Naomi Buchwald towards letting him go.

“Mr. McFarland is not a risk to the community nor a threat to public safety,” they argued.

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“The crime to which [McFarland] pled guilty for was the non-violent financial crime of wire fraud, however, he is a low risk of recidivism for such financial crimes as he has explained that he has a supportive family that has attested to providing for his basic needs.”
(L-R) Ja Rule and Billy McFarland (founder of Fyre Media), 2019. Netflix / courtesy Everett Collection

Expanding on their client’s “vulnerability” to COVID-19, the lawyers noted that McFarland was diagnosed with asthma “as a teenager” and is on the “extreme scale of the allergy spectrum.”

They added that he has suffered unspecified heart issues while serving his time at Elkton correctional institution.

READ MORE: Ricky Gervais chides celebrities ‘complaining’ about coronavirus isolation

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

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Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus outbreak: inmates at Chicago prison hang ‘we’re dying’ signs after 276 test positive for COVID-19'
Coronavirus outbreak: inmates at Chicago prison hang ‘we’re dying’ signs after 276 test positive for COVID-19

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

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For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

adam.wallis@globalnews.ca

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