Former councilmember and soon-to-be federal inmate Chaim Deutsch has been given an additional three weeks of liberty, so his newly administered COVID-19 vaccine can take full effect.
The Manhattan federal judge handling the disgraced pol’s case, James Cott, granted a request by Deutsch’s attorney Henry Mazurek to move the date he is required to surrender to federal custody from Oct. 29 to Nov. 19, after Deutsch decided at the last minute to receive a Johnson & Johnson single-dose shot, as first reported by the New York Post.
Mazurek noted in court filings that Deutsch had up until now refused the jab for “personal reasons,” but he had a change of heart in recent weeks after realizing he would soon be doing time in a congregate prison setting where COVID can, and has been proven to, spread like wildfire.
“After much reflection and consultation with medical, religious, and personal advisers, Mr. Deutsch has decided to receive a COVID-19 vaccine before reporting to the [Federal Bureau of Prisons] facility,” Mazurek said in an Oct. 26 letter to Judge Cott reviewed by Brooklyn Paper. “This was a carefully considered decision by Mr. Deutsch and not one that came easy to him. In the end, however, the serious risks to his health that he confronted by going into a crowded and confined prison setting, and the urgings of his family and counsel, led him to reverse course.”
Mazurek requested Deutsch be given until Nov. 19 so that the J&J dose could have 14 days to take full effect, citing BOP’s own policy on its effectiveness. Judge Cott granted the extension the same day Mazurek sent the letter. Had it not been granted, Deutsch would have been placed in an “isolation cell” for at least two weeks to quarantine before entering general population. The attorney noted that this requirement is no longer in effect for fully vaxxed inmates entering federal custody.
Deutsch, who represented south Brooklyn’s 48th District in the City Council from 2014 until earlier this year, was convicted in July on federal tax fraud charges. He pled guilty in April, admitting to defrauding the government of nearly $83,000 he owed between 2013 and 2015 as the owner of the real estate firm Chasa Management.
In sentencing Deutsch, Judge Cott said that the pol’s position of public trust exacerbated the offenses he had committed.
“Mr. Deutsch was not paying his fair share of taxes to fund the very government services he was helping to oversee as a member of the City Council,” he said during Deutsch’s July 29 sentencing hearing.
“I do believe, given all the circumstances here, that a period of incarceration is necessary,” the judge noted in handing down a sentence of three months imprisonment, a year of supervised release, $107,000 in restitution, and a $5,500 fine. “To decide otherwise would send the wrong message. There is a real financial loss to the government in this case. A public official who knowingly filed false tax returns for three years must go to jail.”
Mazurek noted in the Oct. 26 letter that Deutsch, an Orthodox Jew, had been assigned to Federal Correctional Institution, Otisville, a federal lockup in upstate Orange County which the attorney had requested Deutsch be sent to, and which Cott agreed to recommend, though the determination was ultimately up to the Bureau of Prisons.
Otisville is known as a prison of choice for Jewish federal convictees; it boasts a rabbi as a chaplain and hosts an annual Passover seder in the prison cafeteria.
“The Bureau of Prisons kind of unofficially designated it to meet the needs of Orthodox Jews,” Rabbi Menachem Katz, of Jewish prisoner outreach group Aleph Institute, told New York Magazine in 2008 of Otisville.
Deutsch was expelled from the Council soon after pleading guilty, and the district, which includes Sheepshead Bay, Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach, Midwood, and Homecrest, has been without representation ever since. Deutsch’s staff was fired or reassigned elsewhere in the Council soon after, replaced by Council central office staff. Residents said the firing led to diminished constituent services, which had previously been a hallmark of Deutsch’s tenure.
The race to replace Deutsch is being fought down to the wire between Democrat Steven Saperstein and Republican Inna Vernikov, in one of the few City Council districts with a competitive general election. Election day is Tuesday, and since the seat is vacant, the winner will take office as soon as the results are certified.
Deutsch could not be reached for comment.