A Miami federal judge has denied an early release from prison for one of the kingpins of the Cali drug cartel, ruling that his health and the threat of the COVID-19 coronavirus are not sufficient grounds to end his incarceration. The decision from U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno means that Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela, an 81-year-old former leader of the Cali cartel, will continue to serve his 30-year sentence at a federal penitentiary in North Carolina.
Rodriguez Orejuela and his brother Miguel, former leaders of the infamous Cali drug cartel, pleaded guilty in 2006 to trafficking more than 200 tons of cocaine from Colombia to the United States during the 1980s and ‘90s. The brothers reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors in Miami that allowed dozens of family members to avoid prosecution for money laundering and obstruction of justice charges as part of the agreement.
Rodriquez Orejuela’s attorney had filed a petition with the court requesting early release for his client on compassionate grounds. Attorney David O. Markus argued that Rodriquez Orejuela’s medical history, which includes colon cancer, prostate cancer, two heart attacks, high blood pressure, skin cancer, gout, chronic anxiety and depression, qualified him for compassionate release. Markus also cited media accounts of the threat that the COVID-19 poses to prison inmates as cause to let him out of prison.
“Because there were already sufficient reasons to release him, this crisis gives the court further reasons to grant his motion,” he said.