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Judge considering releasing Warwick man convicted in terror plot from prison

Target 12

BOSTON, (WPRI) – A federal judge is seeking alternative proposals to imprisonment for a Warwick man convicted in a terror plot to behead a conservative blogger, a federal court filing on Wednesday reveals.

Nicholas Rovinski, 29, is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence after he pleaded guilty to two terror conspiracy charges following his arrest in 2015. 

Rovinski, who his attorneys say suffers from cerebral palsy, hypertension, and depression, has asked the courts for a compassionate release from prison, arguing he is at higher risk for serious illness from the coronavirus.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge William Young issued a two-line order that asked prosecutors and defense attorneys to come up with ideas for punishment beside incarceration.

“While Mr. Rovinski makes a strong case for compassionate release, he has served but a small portion of a fair and just sentence for most severe criminal conduct,” Young wrote. “Accordingly, the parties shall, within 20 days of the date hereof, advise the Court as to what non-incarceration sanctions might be imposed upon him.”

The order seemingly gives Rovinski hope that the judge is considering an alternative punishment to prison.

Rovinski is currently serving his sentence at a federal prison in Danbury, Conn., which the Federal Bureau of Prisons website reports had 90 inmates and 61 staff test positive for COVID-19. There has been one inmate death at the facility as a result of the virus, according to the site.

In a court filing late last month, defense attorneys wrote Rovinski has been locked in solitary confinement – known as the SHU – during the pandemic, a move they argue can make matters worse.

“Locking Mr. Rovinski in the SHU because of his cerebral palsy is cruel, ineffective as a public health measure, and likely unlawful,” they wrote, adding research shows being confined to a small space for 23 hours a day lowers a person’s immune system.

Prosecutors said Rovisnki was in segregation because he was involved in a prison fight. But his attorneys said Rovinski was attacked.

Emails to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston and a call to Rovinski’s lawyers were not returned.

In court filings, prosecutors opposed Rovinski’s request to be release to his mother’s Warwick home under electronic monitoring writing, “he may have a more serious complications because he suffers from cerebral palsy, but the defendant has not presented extraordinary and compelling reasons warranting this Court to reduce his sentence to time served.” 

“Granting the defendant’s motion would result in the defendant receiving a sentence of barely five years for two terrorism convictions that carried a sentencing guideline range of life,” they wrote.

Rovinski, along with co-defendant David Wright and Wright’s uncle Usaamah Rahim, plotted to behead conservative blogger Pamela Geller back in 2015, after ISIS issued a decree urging members to kill her over a cartoon contest of the Prophet Muhammad. The plot was never carried out.

At his sentencing prosecutors acknowledged Rovinski publicly disavowed the terrorist organization and cooperated with the government.

Wright was sentenced to 28 years in prison on Tuesday after being convicted by a jury in October. He was painted as the mastermind of the beheading plot, manipulating Rovinski into agreeing to the plan. Rahim, the third co-conspirator, was killed by police back in 2015 after lunging at officers with a knife.

If he is denied a sentence change, Rovinski’s projected release data is April 18, 2028.

Tim White (twhite@wpri.com) is the Target 12 managing editor and chief investigative reporter at 12 News, and the host of Newsmakers. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.

Steph Machado contributed to this report

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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