A federal judge has denied a request by a former longtime Mississippi Coast teacher to get out of prison early on compassionate release due to COVID-19 exposure, according to court papers filed in federal court in Gulfport.
William Richard Pryor, 76, has been in prison since March 2015 after a judge sentenced him to serve 10 years on one count each of transportation of a minor to engage in sexual activity and interstate travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor.
In exchange for his plea in the case, prosecutors dismissed two other charges
Pryor is scheduled to be released from the low-security federal prison in Beaumont, Texas, on Feb. 25, 2023. He will remain on probation for three years after his release and must register as a convicted sex offender for the rest of his life.
The case centered around two students who were at Bayou View Junior High in Gulfport while Pryor was a math teacher there. The school is now called Bayou View Middle School.
At the time of his arrest, Pryor had been teaching at St. Patrick High School.
Pryor later admitted to molesting eight boys, but the FBI identified 12 victims and determined the molestation had spanned a 35-plus period beginning as early as 1973.
In October, Pryor’s attorney, Joshua T. Kadel, filed court papers arguing Pryor should be eligible for compassionate release because Pryor is more susceptible to catching a “serious case” of the deadly virus because he suffers from asthma, hypertension, type 2 Diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome and damage to his esophagus due from acid reflux.
In addition, Kadel noted that public health officials agree the spread of the potentially fatal virus is higher at jail and prisons because the inmates share cells, recreation areas, dining halls, libraries and exercise yards.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office objected to his early release, noting that Pryor had completed two rounds of the Pfizer vaccine on Feb. 3. Other objections by the prosecutor’s officer were filed under seal, meaning the information is restricted from public access.
Judge Louis Guirola denied Pryor’s attempt for early release in an order issued last week, noting, in part, that Pryor “was involved in the heinous act of luring young children by gaining their trust and then exploiting them for sexual pleasure.”
To reduce his sentence, Guirola said, “would not reflect the gravity of his offense, nor provide adequate deterrence” to other criminal offenses.