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Convicted sex offender gets out of prison early due to health concerns

Crime Watch

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IDAHO FALLS — A convicted sex offender from Rigby was released from prison after a judge agreed his medical history made incarceration a risk to his health.

Last October, District Judge Dane Watkins sentenced Randy Russell Sargent, 69, to between 18 months and 13 and a half years in prison for felony enticing a child over the internet. After protest from Sargent’s attorney over his medical history and the dangers of COVID-19, Watkins agreed on April 17 to amend the sentence to 15 years of probation and 100 hours of community service.

In 2016, Sargent met up with the 15-year-old victim after responding to a Craigslist ad for someone claiming to look for a person for his son to engage in sexual activity with. The two eventually engaged in sexual conduct, but Sargent says they never had sex, according to court documents.

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Days after receiving his initial sentence Sargent’s defense attorney, Stephen Meikle, filed for a Rule 35 or reduction in sentence, according to court documents. Meikle argued Sargent’s poor health should make him a candidate for the reduction in sentence. Prosecutors disagreed while acknowledging Sargent’s poor health.

But in January, a motion filed by Meikle said while Sargent was in prison, the medical unit changed one of Sargent’s medications, which caused unwanted side effects. Medical records submitted with court documents showed Sargent’s medical history included a heart transplant 20 years ago along with heart and blood issues. Hearings for Sargent were continually delayed while he gathered medical information and expert testimony from doctors.

Among their complaints was an alleged history of poor medical care for offenders in the custody of the Idaho Department of Correction. Specifically, Sargent felt he was not being given the correct medication as recommended by his doctors. Instead, he said IDOC medical staff opted to give him a medication that cost less.

Sargent also could not receive the appropriate medical treatment related to his heart condition in Idaho, according to court documents. He said the closest place for follow-up appointments for his heart transplant is in Salt Lake City.

Around mid-March, the COVID-19 pandemic began making headlines in Idaho. In response to the virus the Idaho Supreme Court issued several orders limiting court hearings, and Gov. Brad Little issued a statewide stay-at-home order. On April 3, Meikle filed a request for an emergency hearing to reconsider Sargent’s sentence.

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“Mr. Sargent has served over six months (183 days) in custody as of 4/1/2020,” Miekle wrote in the motion. “He is in mortal danger if he serves the sentence as ordered and respectfully requests to be heard on his motion for release to probation based on cardiologist, Dr. Mark G. Parent, MD, medical opinion and severe heart conditions which make him more susceptible to serious conditions, a stroke and or death if infected with COVID-19 or properly medicated with (the correct medication).”

In supporting documents, Miekle wrote Sargent could not social distance from other inmates to protect himself. He also said Sargent was terrified of getting and dying from COVID-19.

On April 14, Watkins, Miekle and prosecutors meet over the phone to discuss the status of Sargent’s sentence. Watkins wrote in his opinion that during that conversation he was invited to consider a reduction in sentence based on the arguments.

Bonneville County Deputy Prosecutor John Dewey told he opposed the change in Sargent’s sentencing every step of the way.

Watkins wrote he reviewed the case, considered Sargent’s medical state, the original sentence, time served, and arguments of the defense and prosecution. He then granted the motion for a reduction in sentence, placing Sargent on probation. Sargent was released from prison at the end of April.