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Eddie Ray Hall, longtime felon released from prison due to pandemic, is back in jail

UPDATED: Wed., July 28, 2021

Eddie Ray Hall, seen in this undated mug shot, pleaded not guilty to a federal drug charge on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2022.  (handout)
Eddie Ray Hall, seen in this undated mug shot, pleaded not guilty to a federal drug charge on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2022. (handout)

Career criminal Eddie Ray Hall, the 57-year-old convicted of multiple felonies spanning decades, is in Whitman County Jail facing allegations he violated the terms of his release last year from federal prison.

Hall, who had been serving a 16-year sentence for dealing methamphetamine, was released from prison in August 2020 after successfully petitioning U.S. District Court Judge Robert Whaley that he would likely face severe health complications if he contracted COVID-19 while behind bars.

Hall was one of 2,549 inmates, including 16 in Eastern Washington, who successfully petitioned courts for release in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, according to a report from the U.S. Sentencing Commission. The request was made under a provision included in a 2018 criminal justice reform bill allowing defendants to ask the courts for their release, rather than Bureau of Prisons officials.

In his motion asking to be released from prison, Hall’s attorney said the spread of the virus in the Milan federal prison in Michigan, where he was being housed, “is a potential death sentence for Mr. Hall, who has hepatitis C, chronic kidney disease, and lost his spleen and most of his bowel after a gunshot wound in the 1980s.” That wound was received during a break-in at a Spokane Valley appliance store in August 1987, when Hall was shot by a security guard. He pleaded guilty to a felony burglary charge in the case, one of at least 16 felony convictions prior to the federal criminal case in 2011.

A 1998 estimate by The Spokesman-Review found that Hall’s incarceration to that point had cost taxpayers roughly $1 million. He was arrested at least six more times after that date, state court records show.

Gordon Stoa, the attorney representing Hall, declined Wednesday to comment on the case or why Hall is being housed at the jail in Colfax. Hall was moved there July 21, according to jail records.

Hall is accused of using heroin, morphine and methamphetamine shortly after his release from prison to a home in Montana, according to drug test results included in court records. Hall denied using methamphetamine in September, telling his probation officer “he may have been exposed to the substance while remodeling his current residence,” according to court records.

Hall remained out of custody under supervision until February at residences in Montana. Following multiple failed drug tests and disregard of an order to remain at his home, a warrant was issued for his arrest. Hall was arrested by Spokane police at a motel on Feb. 19, and inside his car authorities found more than a half-pound of methamphetamine, according to court documents. He’s been in custody since then.

Judges continue to approve so-called “compassionate release” petitions as COVID-19 cases are being recorded in federal prisons across the country.

In May, U.S. District Court Judge William Fremming Nielsen granted release to Robert S. Berry, one of the co-conspirators in the domestic terrorist bombing of a Planned Parenthood building in Spokane Valley in 1996. Berry, who was resentenced to 58 years in prison following a new sentencing hearing in 2020, argued for release because of a cancer diagnosis. Berry was released May 14, with the judge ordering, “at the resentencing hearing Mr. Berry demonstrated he had reformed and no longer presents a risk to the community.”

Berry will be under probation for the next five years, according to the terms of his sentence. His release is in addition to 16 other cases reported by the U.S. Sentencing Commission in Eastern Washington, as it was decided after Dec. 31.

There has been no court date scheduled for Hall, who has been ordered held by the U.S. Marshals.

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