Admitted Riverhead drug dealer requests release from jail over coronavirus concerns

(Update: 1 p.m., Thursday)

Saying there is “no compelling reason” to release a Riverhead man who recently pleaded guilty to federal drug and racketeering charges over concerns he might be particularly vulnerable if he contracts COVID-19, a federal judge denied him bail Thursday.

During a teleconference hearing, Judge Joanna Seybert said Terrill Latney’s prior criminal history and the fact that he has already pleaded guilty to a crime that could lead to life in prison were factors in denying his release.

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Original story

(Update: 9 p.m., Wednesday)

The attorney for a Riverhead man who recently pleaded guilty to federal drug and racketeering charges has filed a motion for his client to be temporarily released from jail, saying he has health conditions that would make him particularly vulnerable if he contracts COVID-19.

Terrill Latney, 40, is currently being housed at Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, where he awaits a possible life sentence in prison.

His New York City attorney, Neil Checkman, said Mr. Latney weighs 460 pounds and has high blood pressure, and that his incarceration in a section of the jail near an area where several inmates and guards have tested positive for the coronavirus or shown symptoms “poses an ever-growing threat to his life.”

“It is not a matter of whether the COVID-19 virus will be transmitted to inmates in his unit, but when,” Mr. Checkman wrote to Judge Joanna Seybert. He requested that Mr. Latney be allowed to stay in home confinement at his mother’s house on Lewis Street in Riverhead.

Prosecutors opposed the motion, arguing that Mr. Latney, who they described as a Bloods gang member with a criminal history that dates back at least 20 years, would be a threat to the Riverhead community and a flight risk. Each of his arrests involves drug dealing, wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Maffei, and he admitted in February to driving the getaway car in a 2015 murder in Riverside.

Mr. Latney pleaded guilty in February to racketeering, including conspiring to distribute narcotics and participating in the murder of Thomas Lacolla of Riverhead, officials said. On Nov. 17, 2015, Mr. Latney drove three Bloods members to Old Quogue Road in Riverside where they fired at least 39 shots into a vehicle parked outside a home they erroneously believed was occupied by the rival gang member.

“Latney has made a career of selling poison on the streets of Suffolk County,” Mr. Maffei wrote. “[He] poses the most extreme danger to the public possible.”

Prosecutors said only one of the more than 1,700 inmates at the jail where Mr. Latney is currently being housed has tested positive for COVID-19. They also said there is no medical evidence to suggest he suffers from high blood pressure.

Judge Seybert is expected to hold a hearing on the motions Thursday.