Ailing cable company founder seeks early release from prison

AP News
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Posted: Dec 15, 2015 2:54 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — The imprisoned 91-year-old founder of what was once one of the nation's largest cable television companies is seeking early release from prison as he nears death from cancer, his lawyers say in court papers.

Family members of Adelphia Communications Corp. founder John Rigas have been told to "deal with end-of-life decisions," including the possibility of hospice care, the lawyers wrote in papers submitted last week to U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood in Manhattan.

The judge on Monday ordered the government to respond to the request for early release by next Tuesday.

Rigas is scheduled to be released from prison in January 2018 after serving a 12-year sentence in a $1.9 billion looting and debt-hiding scandal that led to the collapse of Adelphia.

His lawyers say his health has worsened severely since he entered prison in 2007 after he was diagnosed with bladder cancer. Several months ago, they say, doctors found that his cancer recurred in his bladder and tumors and lesions were on his lung and kidney.

On Dec. 4, he was rushed to the hospital after experiencing bleeding and shortness of breath, the lawyers said.

At a 2005 sentencing, Judge Leonard Sand said Rigas could be released early if he has less than three months to live.

Rigas founded Adelphia in tiny Coudersport, Pennsylvania. It once was the nation's fifth-largest cable company, with more than 5 million customers in 31 states and Puerto Rico. Rigas also once owned the NHL's Buffalo Sabres.

Adelphia prosecutors had accused Rigas and others of using complicated cash-management systems to spread money around to various family-owned entities and as a cover for stealing about $100 million for themselves by using the company's financial ledger like a personal piggy bank.

They were accused of spending the money on a lengthy list of personal luxuries.

Most recently, Rigas has been housed at USP Canaan in Waymart, Pennsylvania. His son, Timothy Rigas, 59, is housed there as well after he too was convicted on multiple counts of securities fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud and bank fraud. He is scheduled to be released in 2022 after serving 17 years.

James Margolin, a spokesman for prosecutors, said Tuesday the government had no comment.

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This story has been corrected to show that Rigas is serving a 12-year sentence, not a 15-year sentence.