A federal judge Monday declined to jail Frank J. Morrocco, an ex-convict from Amherst who claims he got himself arrested in hopes of being sent to prison and getting high-quality health care for his leukemia.
Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder Jr. refused a request from a federal prosecutor to jail Morrocco, but he ordered Morrocco to go to Roswell Park Cancer Institute to apply for health care coverage under a program run by New York State.
“I’ll take him down to Ros-well as soon as possible, and hopefully, he’ll be admitted to the program and get the treatment he needs,” said Morrocco’s attorney, Joel L. Daniels.
Morrocco, 56, was released from federal prison last year after serving 20 years for conspiring to traffic in cocaine. He told The Buffalo News he shoplifted $23 worth of “junk items” from a Wegmans supermarket Nov. 26 in hopes of being returned to prison, where he got “excellent ... top-of-the-line health care.”
Amherst police charged him with shoplifting after the incident.
He now faces a federal charge of violating the terms of his five-year supervised release.
Daniels said social workers at Roswell Park have told him that Morrocco can get health coverage for $362 a month under the “New York Bridge” program set up for people who are having difficulty paying for health care.
Morrocco said his mother and two friends have agreed to pay for his health care until he can afford to pick up the payments himself. He works as a private contractor, purchasing cars at auctions for local car dealers, and said he currently does not make enough money to afford health coverage.
Schroeder said he did not think it would be humane to send a man back to jail so he can get health care treatment.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony M. Bruce urged Schroeder to put Morrocco in jail. According to Bruce, Morrocco’s shoplifting arrest was not the only time he has violated the terms of his supervised release.
In court, it was disclosed that Town of Tonawanda police arrested Morrocco in August, after he got into a dispute with another man over a loud motorcycle. The prosecutor also stated that Morrocco, who is barred from any contact with convicted felons, has been spending time with a woman who is a convicted felon.
“I did have words with a man in Tonawanda, and I was charged with harassment ... We had words, but I never harassed him,” Morrocco said after the court session.
“I was seeing a younger woman, but to my understanding, she was never convicted of a felony. Maybe she gave me incorrect information, he said.”
Schroeder ordered Morrocco to appear in federal court again at 2 p.m. Dec. 19 for an update before U.S. District Judge John T. Curtin, who handled Morrocco’s original drug case.
“I am thankful that it looks like I’m going to get health care coverage, and I want to thank Judge Schroeder and Joel Daniels for the way they handled things,” Morrocco said late Monday.