In a profession where nicknames make the man, and vice-versa, over the decades, Mike Sarno's many mob monikers have always focused on his weight.
From "Fat Boy" to "The Large Guy," Sarno's size was made tantamount to his muscle mass within the Outfit, investigators always maintained.
Now though Sarno's weight is being used against him according to his attorney, effectively blocking his compassionate release from prison. A federal judge in Chicago has ruled against freeing Sarno about halfway through his 25-year prison sentence, agreeing with prosecutors who said that being obese doesn't mean he is especially susceptible to coronavirus and shouldn't result in his freedom.
In an exclusive interview with the ABC7 I-Team, Sarno's daughter and attorney said that decision essentially imposes the death penalty on Sarno who is only 62. They said he is obese and in extremely poor health.
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The Westchester native's obesity has turned into a life-or-death proposition according to his family that wants him released as soon as possible to avoid being infected by COVID-19, a disease that has hit prison populations especially hard. Currently, Sarno is being held under round-the-clock guard in a private hospital rehab facility, according to his attorney John Chwarzynski, Jr.
"About ten years ago when he was sentenced to 25 years in prison we were extremely devastated. But now they are pushing a life sentence on him, because, unfortunately, I don't think he'll make it out after this," said Angelica Micheli, Sarno's daughter.
As the I-Team reported last month, Sarno filed for court-ordered compassionate release from prison saying his condition puts him at grave risk for COVID-19 if he remains in custody.
On Friday a Chicago judge agreed with prosecutors say Sarno deserves no mercy.
Sarno is doing time for his role in a gambling and robbery alliance between the Outfit and the Outlaws biker gang. While his days as a heavy hitter in the mob may have ended a decade ago, his weight --that prompted nicknames: Fat Boy and later The Large Guy has stayed with him --spelled out in court motions for his release and also in government replies downplaying his obesity-even in the COVID-era.
"They don't believe that he's sick, despite the fact that there were two medical opinions provided by two separate doctors, stating that my client, Mr. Santos should be released from prison," Chwarzynski said.
District Judge Ronald Guzman didn't buy it and ruled against Sarno's release, a decision that Chwarzynski said will be appealed, while the ailing mob figure remains in a private hospital rehab unit under round-the-clock guard according to Chwarzynski.
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"The government's response to this was heartless. It was disingenuous, and it was ignorant to the facts of Mr. Sarno's medical condition," said Chwarzynski.
His daughter said the decision is extremely disappointing and is hitting the family hard. She said his weight is just one issue he is facing along with several other dangerous ailments.
"I just told him that he has to stay strong and he can't let his medical conditions take over because he needs to come home and see his granddaughter and his family, his wife and friends. I said, 'please promise me that you'll make it out healthy,' so, with the government's help, I hope that they'll help us," said Micheli.
If Sarno's attorney can't eventually win release in court, he is lining up another option: planning to ask President Trump for clemency on the grounds that the compassionate release law is not being applied fairly in Sarno's case when other-more dangerous criminals-have been freed.
The US attorney's office in Chicago was contacted about these developments, they declined to weigh in.