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Ex-Adelphia CEO loses bid for early prison release due to cancer

Adam Roundtree | Bloomberg | Getty Images

John Rigas, the former chief executive of Adelphia Communications Corp who is serving a 12-year sentence for his role in a fraud that led to the cable company's collapse, on Tuesday lost a bid for early release from prison due to his diagnosis of terminal cancer.

Lawyers for Rigas, 91, who was convicted in 2004 for participating in a securities fraud, cited his "precipitously deteriorating health" in requesting that he be released on bail while pursuing a bid to overturn his conviction.

But U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood in Manhattan ruled that while "extraordinary circumstances exist," Rigas had not demonstrated that his legal challenge raised "substantial claims."

Rigas and his son, Timothy Rigas, Adelphia's former chief financial officer, were found guilty in 2004 of conspiring to conceal Adelphia's debt and use corporate funds and assets for their own benefit.

The Adelphia case, along with Enron and WorldCom, was one of the biggest corporate fraud prosecutions in recent years. Adelphia was the fifth-largest U.S. cable firm before its 2002 collapse.

Rigas was initially sentenced to 15 years in prison, but after a federal appeals court threw out one of his convictions, his sentence was reduced to 12 years. His lawyers say even before the cancer diagnosis, he was eligible for release in early 2017.

Rigas was diagnosed with bladder cancer before entering prison, and doctors discovered a recurrence several months ago, his lawyers said. In addition to cancer in his bladder, Rigas also has tumors on his lung and kidney, they say.

Prison personnel and one of the doctors have told family members that Rigas' condition is terminal, the lawyers wrote.

His bail request came amid a bid to overturn his conviction due to alleged prosecutorial misconduct.

Prosecutors opposed releasing Rigas, saying they continue to contest the validity of his legal claims.

Lawrence McMichael, a lawyer for Rigas, in an email said despite the setback, they will continue to pursue his legal claims.

Rigas' lawyers have also asked the Federal Bureau of Prisons to grant Rigas a compassionate release, and McMichael said he "hope it does so promptly, while the relief is still meaningful."

Timothy Rigas, 59, is serving a 17-year prison term and is being held in the same Pennsylvania prison as his father.

The case is Rigas v. U.S., U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 11-06964.