Prisoner’s early release over COVID-19 fears is reversed

Michigan

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DETROIT (AP) — A decision to release a Michigan man from prison because of COVID-19 fears was overturned Thursday by a federal appeals court, which pointed to his “long history of violence” against women and abuse of children.

The court said U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts made the wrong call in granting a compassionate release.

Roger Sweet, 73, had seven years remaining on a 21-year sentence for sexual exploitation of children when Roberts ruled in his favor in April. She acknowledged that his crimes were “abhorrent” but said chronic health conditions made him vulnerable in the pandemic.

Prosecutors opposed Sweet’s release and noted that he had survived a COVID-19 infection in prison and was subsequently vaccinated.

In 2008, Sweet was convicted in two Detroit-area courts and federal court. Those crimes included second-degree murder in the 1990 death of his first wife, the sexual assault of a teenager and the sexual exploitation of children.

Sweet’s federal prison sentence was the longest. The others have expired.

“Sweet’s long history of violence against women and sexual abuse of children counsels against his release,” the appeals court said in a 3-0 opinion.

In 2007, Sweet’s second wife disappeared after a fire at their Brownstown Township home, south of Detroit, a blaze that triggered the criminal investigations that landed him in prison.

Lizzie Mae Collier-Sweet’s remains were found years later, in 2013, in a secluded area less than a mile from their former home. No one has been charged, but police consider it to be a homicide and Sweet to be a “person of interest.”

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