Updated Story – Posted 3:40 p.m.
A man released early from a California prison tested positive for coronavirus one day before prison officials sent him home to Alaska on a commercial flight.
That’s according to documentation of Duane Fields’ test results, which Fields provided to Alaska Public Media, and criminal charges federal prosecutors filed against him on May 22.
The charges allege Fields, 48, violated a court order to follow Alaska’s health mandate to quarantine for two weeks after arriving in the state. Fields blames confusing directions from his release paperwork and his parole officer and says he plans to fight the charges, which include a felony.
But it remains unclear why prison officials put Fields on a plane to Alaska after he tested positive for the virus. Fields says he was unaware of the test results until days after he arrived.
Fields had been serving time for a 2012 drug dealing conviction at Terminal Island, a minimum-security federal prison in San Pedro, California. A judge reduced his sentence to time served earlier this year amid the coronavirus pandemic, after Fields’ lawyers argued for “compassionate” early release because of his struggles with cancer while in prison.
An outbreak of coronavirus at the Terminal Island prison, infecting more than 1,000 inmates, has been described as the worst such outbreak at a federal penitentiary in the entire United States, according to the LA Times.
Fields’ documentation shows he was tested for coronavirus May 6. The positive result is dated May 7, but Fields was put on a plane to Alaska on May 8.
According to the charges, it wasn’t until May 11 that someone from the Terminal Island prison contacted Fields’ parole officer in Alaska to tell him about the positive test results. The parole officer eventually found Fields at his mother’s home — not where he was supposed to be quarantining, according to the charges — and delivered the news about the positive result.
In a phone interview, Fields said he has never had any symptoms of the virus, nor have his mother or daughter, with whom he has been in contact. In a court hearing Wednesday, Fields’ attorney said his mother and daughter have since tested negative.
A spokesperson for the Terminal Island prison did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the timing of the test results.
Original Story – Posted 9:20 a.m.
A convicted Anchorage drug dealer, diagnosed with cancer and granted early release from a federal prison in California, is now charged with violating Alaska’s two-week quarantine mandate.
But 48-year-old Duane “Fat Daddy” Fields said Tuesday that he did nothing wrong. He says he was misled by his parole officer and his release paperwork.
The charges, filed May 22, say a judge ordered Fields to quarantine in an Anchorage hotel. Then a parole officer supervising him got the results of a coronavirus test conducted on Fields before he left California. Fields tested positive for the virus. His parole officer was trying to find him to deliver the test results but found Fields broke quarantine by leaving his hotel to visit his mother, the charges say.
According to Fields, though, parts of the story told in the charges are not true.
Back in 2012, a jury convicted Fields of distributing cocaine in Anchorage. He was sentenced to nearly 11 years in prison.
According to court filings, Fields was serving that time in California when he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
In January, Fields’ lawyers asked a judge to grant him early “compassionate” release. Soon, the coronavirus pandemic hit the country and there was widespread concern it would sweep through prisons.
Citing the pandemic, a judge granted Fields’ release back to Alaska, and by May a plan was in place that, according to the charges, said Fields was supposed to quarantine at the Chelsea Inn in Anchorage.
Fields disputes that. He provided a copy of his release paperwork that lists his mother’s address as his proposed residence, not the hotel’s address.
In a phone call, Fields and his mother both said that after he arrived, it was Fields’ mother who said he should not quarantine with her, and that’s how he ended up at the hotel. And Fields says he told his parole officer that he planned to see his mother to get clothes and to get to medical appointments. Fields and his mother claim the officer told them that was OK.
The charges say that after getting Fields’ test results, the parole officer tried, unsuccessfully, to contact him. Staff at the Chelsea Inn told the officer Fields had left earlier that day.
The officer then called Fields’ mother, who lives in Anchorage. She said that he was “at that very moment on her couch at her residence,” the charges say.
Fields is now charged with contempt of court for violating the judge’s orders in his release plan, which say he had to follow the Alaska health mandate to quarantine for two weeks after arriving in the state.
Fields said he plans to fight the contempt charge. He said neither he, his mother, nor his daughter — all of whom have been in contact with each other — have shown symptoms of the coronavirus.