News & Events

Pro Bono Kaiser Team Secures Rare Compassionate Release of Client with Severe Disabilities

The Kaiser team of Jon Jeffress, Bill Zapf, and Daniel Csigirinszkij has secured the early release of pro bono client Ryan Vestal after convincing the court that Mr. Vestal’s injuries and ongoing medical complications were “extraordinary and compelling reasons” for his release. Elizabeth Blackwood, then with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, provided tremendous assistance throughout the matter.

More than five years ago, Mr. Vestal suffered devastating spinal cord and head injuries in a fall while in custody. This left him largely confined to his bed and a wheelchair in a Bureau of Prisons medical facility, far from his family and dependent on the assistance of others for life’s most basic tasks. To make matters worse, Mr. Vestal has suffered numerous complications since his injuries due to inadequate care in the Bureau of Prisons that have further reduced his quality of life, increased his pain and suffering, and threatened his life.

Recognizing the injustice of forcing Mr. Vestal to lay in prison, Kaiser took on the case. Notably, the court had previously denied motions for Mr. Vestal’s early release filed by prior counsel. Nevertheless, over several months, the Kaiser team gathered and reviewed Mr. Vestal’s medical records, engaged an expert, and put together a detailed motion seeking Mr. Vestal’s compassionate release under the First Step Act. The very next day after filing the motion in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, however, the team was devastated to receive a short, four-sentence order summarily denying the motion.

Recognizing the incredibly low odds of convincing a court to change its mind and the even lower odds of winning an appeal, the team nevertheless filed a motion to reconsider the order, taking another run at convincing the court that further prison time served no good purpose and that Mr. Vestal should be home with his family where he could be cared for much better. Expecting little, the team was overjoyed when the Court reversed course unexpectedly and reduced Mr. Vestal’s sentence to time served.

Jon, Bill, Daniel, and the whole Kaiser team are elated for our client and his family. Although Mr. Vestal has a long road ahead of him in dealing with his complex medical conditions, he soon will be home, surrounded by loved ones who will provide the care he deserves.