Convicted drug trafficker Austin “Ozzie” Knowles is afraid he’ll die in prison due to an outbreak of COVID-19. Knowles, 58, wants a judge to cut short his seven-year sentence and let him return home. Knowles was extradited to the US in May 2018, ending a 16-year legal fight against his surrender, and he pleaded guilty the following month.
A judge sentenced Knowles to 12 years, reduced by five years due to the time he had spent on remand in The Bahamas. As a part of his sentence, Knowles forfeited $1 million to the U.S government.
In an affidavit in support of the application for compassionate release, Knowles said he never imagined that pleading guilty to drug trafficking crimes in 2019 could potentially result in a death sentence.
At the time of Knowles’ guilty plea, COVID-19 was unknown. Knowles said, “My medical vulnerabilities make prison much more dangerous than the court could have ever considered when I was sentenced. The only solution is immediate compassionate release. I am also asking the court to consider a reduction in my sentence if immediate compassionate release is not granted.”
According to Knowles, the highly contagious Delta variant is sweeping through the McRae prison in Georgia, where he’s held. He said, “The prison system was never designed to keep any inmate safe from COVID-19, and the deadly variants such as Delta. I should not have to face a potential death sentence or long-term permanent health impairment from COVID-19 as a result of my guilty plea and sentencing. I fear for my safety and my life because the Delta Variant is widespread through the prison that I am housed in.”
Knowles is scheduled to complete his sentence by October 6, 2025. However, he fears that he might not make it out alive, as his hypertension makes him more susceptible to COVID-19.
Additionally, Knowles said since his incarceration he’s had serious stomach pain. He said he’s having the same symptoms as his brother, who was diagnosed with colon cancer, but the prison refuses to pay for the tests that would confirm his diagnosis.