Businessman in St. Louis bribery case gets virus in prison

Associated Press
The Rolla Daily News

ST. LOUIS — A businessman who went to prison in June after pleading guilty in a pay-to-play scandal that brought down a top St. Louis County elected official has asked to be released because he has the coronavirus. 

John Rallo, 55, asked a federal judge to allow him to serve some of his 17-month prison sentence under home confinement with family in Salt Lake City because of health concerns, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. 

Rallo pleaded guilty last summer to three bribery counts as part of a scheme involving former Democratic St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, who pleaded guilty in May 2019 to corruption charges for providing political favors in exchange for campaign donations. Stenger is serving a sentence of nearly four years in prison.

Rallo was sentenced in early March but his date to report to prison was pushed to late June because of the pandemic.

In an Aug. 11 letter to U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber, Rallo wrote that his cellmate, Taiwan Davis, died after contracting COVID-19. 

Rallo's attorney, Curtis Poore, told the newspaper that Rallo tested positive for the virus on Aug. 2, and that he has been very ill and is still having difficulty breathing. He said Rallo has a compromised immune system because he has thyroid cancer and a blood disorder. 

"No one deserves to be put in harms way and exposed to COVID-19 as I have been for the last several weeks," Rallo wrote in his handwritten letter to the judge.

There are 155 inmates at the minimum security satellite camp where Rallo is housed and 1,047 at the medium security Marion prison, according to the Bureau of Prisons. At least 143 inmates out of 573 tested have been positive for the virus.

Statewide, at least 70,675 confirmed cases have been reported since the start of the pandemic, according to state health department data updated Wednesday.

Missouri's COVID-19 death toll stood at 1,414 as of Wednesday. 

As of Tuesday, the state's seven-day rolling average of new cases per day was stable, with an average of 1,230 new confirmed cases per day, according to an Associated Press analysis as of Johns Hopkins University's COVID-19 tracking data. The average new cases per day has been above 1,200 since Saturday. It hit a recent low of 912 on Aug. 8.

Rolling average weekly data is important because it should help mitigate day-to-day spikes in cases caused by delays in reporting or processing information from labs.