NEW YORK – The dying 91-year-old founder of one of the nation's one-time largest cable television companies was ordered freed early from prison on Friday.
U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood in Manhattan signed an order allowing Adelphia Communications Corp. founder John Rigas to be freed as soon as his medical condition permits, the release plan is implemented and travel arrangements can be made.
The judge was responding to a written request for early release by prosecutors.
Rigas is serving a 12-year sentence in a $1.9 billion looting and debt-hiding scandal that led to the collapse of Adelphia. He was scheduled to be released from prison in January 2018.
Prosecutors said Rigas suffers from bladder cancer that has advanced to his lungs, making it unlikely he'll live more than six months.
Rigas' attorney, Christie Comerford, said she is grateful for the order and added that the fight to vindicate Rigas and his son Timothy Rigas will continue.
John Rigas has been housed at USP Canaan in Waymart, Pennsylvania. His son, also housed there, was convicted on multiple counts of securities fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud and bank fraud. He is scheduled to be released in 2022 after serving 17 years.
Two months ago, defense lawyers reported that John Rigas had been told to "deal with end-of-life decisions," including the possibility of hospice care.
At a 2005 sentencing, Judge Leonard Sand said Rigas could be released early if he has less than three months to live.
Rigas founded Adelphia in tiny Coudersport, Pennsylvania. Adelphia once was the nation's fifth-largest cable company, with more than 5 million customers in 31 states and Puerto Rico. Rigas also once owned the NHL's Buffalo Sabres.
Adelphia prosecutors had accused Rigas and others of using complicated cash management systems to spread money around to various family-owned entities and as a cover for stealing about $100 million for themselves by using the company's financial ledger like a personal piggy bank.
Rigas and the others were accused of spending the money on a lengthy list of personal luxuries.