April 10, 2020

Illinois governor commutes sentence of jailed cancer patient

Apr 5, 2020 Updated Apr 5, 2020

CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker commuted the sentence of a suburban Chicago man with cancer who was serving four years in prison for ordering 42 pounds of chocolate infused with the main psychoactive component in marijuana.

Illinois Department of Corrections spokeswoman Lindsey Hess said Thomas Franzen was released Monday from the Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill, the Aurora-Beacon News reported. Hess added that the Montgomery man was ordered to complete two years of parole.

Franzen’s attorney David Camic said the man’s family was thrilled about his release.

“It would be easy to complain and say that the governor took too long (to pardon his sentence), but realistically in the midst of all that is going on with the coronavirus, we are grateful the governor took the time to release him,” said Camic, adding that Franzen, 37, now lives with his father in Sugar Grove.

U.S. Postal Service workers had noticed questionable packages routinely being delivered to Franzen and opened one in February 2014 that contained the THC-infused chocolate.

After being initially charged with drug conspiracy and pot trafficking, Franzen was sentenced to four years for a lesser charge of possessing more than 5,000 grams of marijuana in June 2019. Franzen pleaded guilty a day before Illinois voters approved the legalization of recreational marijuana.

Franzen has battled several forms of cancer since he was in high school, Camic said, adding that he used the drugs to self-medicate. Franzen had been diagnosed with testicular cancer that spread to his abdomen, both lungs, around his aorta and a vocal cord.

Franzen’s family said his health was deteriorating while behind bars for the last nine months and noted that he didn’t receive proper medical care. The family’s concerns about Franzen’s health increased amid the coronavirus pandemic. At least one person at the Stateville prison has tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.

Pritzker has announced plans to release several low-level, non-violent offenders through a rigorous vetting process.

Tom Franzen
Tom Franzen (Kane County Jail)

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