Imprisoned ex-Senate Majority Leader Atkinson given compassionate release amid coronavirus pandemic

Riley Snyder
Riley Snyder
Jacob Solis
Jacob Solis
CoronavirusCriminal JusticeLegislature

Kelvin Atkinson, a former top Nevada state lawmaker who was convicted last year for campaign finance and wire act violations, was granted an early compassionate release Friday evening by a federal judge because of concerns about his possible susceptibility to COVID-19.

The order, issued Friday by Nevada District Court Judge James Mahan, commutes Atkinson’s sentence to credit for time served, ordering him released within 72 hours and requiring him self-quarantine at home for a period of 14 days. The order also requires him to serve the remainder of his original sentence under supervised release — home arrest — without electronic monitoring.

Atkinson had been sentenced to 27 months in federal prison and more than $249,000 in fines in July 2019 for misappropriating more than $450,000 in campaign funds for personal use between 2010 and 2017. He resigned from the Legislature on March 9, 2019 and pled guilty to federal charges against him just two days later. Atkinson would finally report to prison on October 18.

Many details of Atkinson’s situation, including his health condition, were not available because the documents were filed under seal. Atkinson filed the initial emergency request for an expedited release on March 27, with his attorney noting that his prison facility in California has been in lockdown since April 1.

But an attorney for Atkinson wrote in a sealed request — referenced by the federal judge in his order —  that the former lawmaker has a “unique susceptibility to the COVID-19 infection,” but did not provide any additional details, beyond a note from a physician stating that the virus “could result” in his death. 

Atkinson’s attorney did not immediately return a request for comment.

Per Mahan’s order, Atkinson stated that no one at the USP Atwater prison facility in California provided him with cleaning products, such as lysol or bleach, and that staff members are not following social distancing guidelines and he “has not seen extra efforts of staff members making rounds to disinfect or take inmates’ temperatures to see if anyone has a fever.”

While the U.S. attorney’s office response was also filed under seal, Mahan’s order states that the government argued Atkinson “has not shown that his medical condition substantially diminishes his ability to care for himself at this time,” and that he has access to “effective cleaning products.”

The order requires Atkinson to serve the remaining three years of supervised release on top of the commuted sentence, and forbids him from leaving his residence other than for medical necessities or those approved by a probation officer. The judge also suspended an employment and community service requirement for early release, given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Atkinson was first elected to the Assembly in 2002, and would later join the Senate in 2012. He eventually rose to become the chamber’s majority leader in 2019, a job in which he served for just over two months before his surprise resignation on the Senate floor.

Read the release order below:


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