Facing a potential “death sentence” due to her deteriorating health, a woman with a long rap sheet was released from in East Meadow on Thursday.
Diane McCloud, 47, of Hempstead was serving a 15-month jail term for thefts at Target on two separate occasions when she was diagnosed with late stages of congestive heart failure. Dr. Sanjay Doddamani, chief of cardiology at Nassau University Medical Center (NUMC), told McCloud’s defense attorney, Leonard Isaacs, last month that the woman had less than six months to live if she did not receive a heart transplant.
With the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office in full agreement, Nassau County Court Judge Francis Ricigliano vacated her sentence. Still hooked up to an IV, she was wheeled via hospital bed from court into coronary care unit on Thursday.
“Her condition is deteriorating rapidly,” said Isaacs, whose law office is in Valley Stream. “I had to bring this motion [to release her from jail] immediately. It was literally a question of life and death."
“The question came down to whether someone should be sentenced to the death penalty for two thefts at Target,” he added. “I could not see that happening and we had to do something to help this woman stay alive.”
The attorney said he does not believe there is precedent for a prisoner being released from jail to seek a new heart. McCloud was entering the seventh month of her 15-month jail term when she was freed.
McCloud was accused of stealing $2,347 worth of merchandise from Target in Westbury on Dec. 23, 2009 and $1,558 in items from the same store on Jan. 6, 2010, authorities said. She was charged with two counts of fourth degree grand larceny, both felonies, but she pleaded guilty to two lesser counts of misdemeanor petty larceny on Sept. 17, 2010. She was sentenced to consecutive terms of 12 months and three months for the two thefts, officials said.
She was scheduled to be released from prison on Aug. 20, 2011 at the earliest for good behavior, her attorney said.
When she committed the thefts at Target, she was on parole for another crime, officials said.
While in the East Meadow lockup, McCloud developed progressive heart disease and was recommended for a heart transplant. “She has had a history of heart problems, which were exacerbated in December,” said Isaacs. “She even had a defibrillator installed but that was not helping her. I made the motion in the interest of justice to vacate the sentence so that she could get the necessary treatment.”
“People at the end stages of heart failure usually do not survive beyond six months,” said Dr. Doddamani. “She has become very sick in the last month.”
She must undergo a multitude of tests at various medical facilities, which would have been impossible had she remained in jail, said Isaacs. Doddamani said McCloud could be placed on a heart donor list anywhere from one to three months after she receives a battery of tests to determine her eligibility.
Isaacs said McCloud had to be released because prisoners are usually not placed on a list of heart recipients. In addition, anti-rejection treatment is not readily available to prisoners, he said.
The county also would not have picked up the costs of a heart transplant if she remained behind bars, he said, adding that since she has been released she could receive Medicaid to cover the costs of the transplant.
Isaacs said he is due back in court on Feb. 24, along with his client, if she is able, to update Judge Ricigliano on any progress.
If she receives a transplant and is able to appear before the court, she would probably be sentenced to probation to complete her jail stint if she “stays out of trouble,” said Chris Munzing, a spokesman for DA Kathleen Rice.
Munzing said that even though McCloud “has a lengthy rap sheet,” her attorney and the DA’s Office agreed that she should be released so that she could seek treatment. “She could not get the necessary screening if she’s in jail,” he said.
Dr. Doddamani said McCloud is being cared for in NUMC’s brand new heart failure center to treat patients with all aspects of congestive heart failure.
“She will continue to be under our care until she can safely transition at home on a continuous [intravenous] drip on a medication to support her heart,” the chief cardiologist said. “Then she will be evaluated aggressively at a heart transplant center in New York.”
Isaacs said his hope is for him to stand with his client in front of the judge in the near future as she sports a new heart. “I’m hoping she gets the heart she so desperately needs,” he said.