(CNN)In a stunning reprieve for a man sentenced to more than five centuries behind bars for a nonviolent offense, a judge in Los Angeles on Thursday summarily slashed his sentence to time served and ordered his immediate release.
Grandfather serving 505-year sentence ordered to be released 'without delay'
Juan Carlos Seresi, a convicted money launderer whose projected release date from the federal Bureau of Prisons had been July 8, 2419, was suddenly ordered to be freed "without delay" by U.S. District Court Judge Stephen V. Wilson. Once out, Seresi will be subject to a three-year term of supervised release, according to Wilson's order.
"It's a miracle," Seresi said after hearing the news from his daughter, Patti Mawer, she told CNN. Mawer, 46, said her father has been behind bars since she was a teenager, but has remained an integral part of her family's life.
"After all this praying and all this hoping, he can't believe it," Mawer added.
Seresi, 73, was one of four defendants sentenced to 505 years behind bars in 1991 for laundering cocaine cartel cash who were featured in a CNN report published in August. The article noted how the sentences were considered harsh even back then and represent the sort of draconian punishment that has since been widely condemned amid a national conversation around justice reform.
When the case was before Wilson in August, he denied a request by prosecutors to overturn the men's convictions "in the interests of justice" due to special treatment given to a government witness by FBI agents that was not disclosed to the defense. Wilson conducted a months-long review into the matter and concluded that the men's convictions were sufficiently supported by evidence and testimony unrelated to that particular witness.
All four defendants filed an appeal with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is pending.
But Seresi's attorneys also filed a motion seeking his release on compassionate grounds, due in part to his advanced age and a diagnosis of high blood pressure making him susceptible to serious complications from Covid-19. Prosecutors in the US Attorney's Office in Los Angeles did not oppose the motion.
While Wilson found that those factors alone did not entitle Seresi to early release, he noted other factors that — taken together — amounted to "extraordinary and compelling reasons" for granting his freedom.
Seresi was convicted of a nonviolent offense, had already served more than 30 years behind bars, earned three associate degrees while incarcerated and had a near spotless disciplinary record, the judge noted.