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Napout denied compassionate prison release

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NEW YORK — A federal judge denied a request by the former head of South American soccer to be given compassionate release from prison because of the new coronavirus pandemic but reserved judgment Friday on his request for release on bail pending his appeal.

U.S. District Judge Pamela K. Chen in Brooklyn said Juan Angel Napout had not exhausted his administrative remedies with the Federal Bureau of Prisons in seeking compassionate release.

Napout was convicted in December 2017 of accepting bribes, and his lawyers moved to reduce Napout’s sentence to time served or to let him to serve the next six months at his condominium in South Florida or for release until the appeal is decided.

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Napout, who turns 62 on May 13, is serving a nine-year sentence and is scheduled for release on Aug. 9, 2025.

“I am not going to be a fugitive, your honor,” he said near the end of an 85-minute telephone hearing. “I’m just asking you, your honor, for your mercy.”

His request for bail was opposed by federal prosecutors.

“The motivation and incentive to flee is at its peak now that Mr. Napout has been in for a time and sees what it’s like and would face the prospect of going back in should he lose his appeal,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Samuel P. Nitze said. He called Napout “a defendant of enormous means, zero ties to the United States, significant ties to his home country and to very powerful people in that home country, a demonstrated willingness to obstruct justice.”

Napout was president of the South American governing body CONMEBOL from August 2014 until December 2015, president of the Paraguayan Football Association from 2007-14 and a member of FIFA’s executive committee. He was arrested in Zurich while attending FIFA meetings in December 2015.

Napout was convicted on Dec. 22, 2017, of one count of racketeering conspiracy and two counts of wire fraud conspiracy, and he was taken into custody that day.

He was sentenced by Chen to nine years in prison the following Aug. 29 and is at the low security Federal Correctional Institution, Miami. His attempt to overturn the verdict was argued on Nov. 7 at the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals and is pending before Judges Robert D. Sack, Peter W. Hall and Joseph F. Bianco.

Napout filed a request for compassionate release with the Bureau of Prisons on March 30, and the bureau has 30 days to make a decision. His lawyers cited correlation between greater risk for more severe COVID-19 symptoms in older people. The government said no prisoner at the Miami facility had gotten ill, but Chen cited his being in the lower end of the 60-69 group.

“I don’t find his risk factors so significant in terms of the consequences of the disease if he gets it to warrant that,” she said.

Napout was banned for life from soccer by FIFA last September and fined 1 million Swiss francs (then $1.01 million). He has appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and a hearing is scheduled for May 13.

Chen agreed March 30 to release former Brazilian federation head Jose Maria Marin, who turns 88 on May 6, and cut short his four-year sentence by about eight months. He returned to Brazil within 72 hours of his release, prosecutors said.

2020 Copa America postponed

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It has been announced that the 2020 Copa America tournament has been postponed as soccer’s governing body in South America have followed UEFA’s lead.

Moments after EURO 2020 was postponed and moved to the summer of 2021, the Copa America tournament will follow suit. The tournament was due to be held in Argentina and Colombia from June 12 to July 12 this summer but the plan is now to play the tournament in the summer of 2021 from June 11 to July 11.

With so many of South America’s top players currently playing in Europe, which is now the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, this decision had to come before players tried to return home to Brazil, Argentina and beyond.

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Medel: Chile players decline friendly over civil unrest

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Chile had already canceled a home friendly with Bolivia this international break, and now the players will not play Tuesday in Peru either due to unrest in their country.’

A nationwide strike and protests against the government, spurred by a rise in metro fares, have Chile on edge.

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La Roja stars Gary Medel and Arturo Vidal both posted lengthy messages on their Instagram accounts, saying that the decision was made “in response to the social moment in our country.”

They urged both protestors and law enforcement to turn away from violence.

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“We are soccer players, but above all people and citizens. We know that we represent a complete country and today Chile has other priorities much more important than next Tuesday’s game.”

Chile is ranked No. 17 by FIFA and 22 in Elo Ratings.

VIDEO: River edge past Boca to reach Copa Libertadores final

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Boca Juniors scored a late goal to beat bitter rivals River Plate 1-0 at La Bombonera on Tuesday, but River held on to reach the final of the Copa Libertadores with a 2-1 aggregate win.

Jan Hurtado scored the second-leg winner for Boca in the 80th minute to send the home fans wild, but it wasn’t enough as River somehow held on to reach their second-straight Copa Libertadores final.

Amid fireworks, copious amounts of ticker tape and an incredible atmosphere generated by Boca’s supporters at their home in Buenos Aires, to hold on for the aggregate victory was an amazing display of defensive strength from River Plate.

Boca battered River for large swathes of this game, with the home side squandering plenty of chances. Click play on the video below to watch the highlights as River Plate goalkeeper Franco Armani was a busy man and came up with the goods.

Of course, the Copa Libertadores final between Boca and River last season was abandoned and then moved to Madrid, Spain over fan unrest as Boca Juniors bus was attacked.

River won the final 3-1 last season and they will face either Flamengo or Gremio in the final in Santiago, Chile on Nov. 23. This season will see the change in format to a one-off final to decide the Champions of CONMEBOL.

The Copa Libertadores winners will represent South America in the FIFA Club World Cup in Qatar in December.

Longtime FIFA official Leoz, indicted in US, dies at 90

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ASUNCION, Paraguay (AP) Nicolas Leoz, a long-time South American soccer executive and FIFA official who had been under house arrest in Paraguay fighting extradition to the United States, has died. He was 90.

Leoz’s lawyer, Ricardo Preda, told The Associated Press his client died Wednesday after a cardiac arrest linked to age-related ailments.

Leoz, under house arrest for the last four years, was indicted in 2015 in the U.S. Justice Department’s sweeping investigation of bribery and financial corruption linked to broadcasting and sponsorship rights for soccer competitions, including the Copa Libertadores.

South American soccer body CONMEBOL announced Leoz’s death on Twitter. Leoz had served as president of the Paraguay-based organization from 1986-2013.

One of Leoz’s achievements as CONMEBOL president was to gain diplomatic immunity for its headquarters in Asuncion as protection from prosecution.

Leoz resigned from CONMEBOL and his FIFA executive committee seat in 2013 before the FIFA ethics committee could punish him following long-standing allegations he took kickbacks from World Cup revenues.

Leoz received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Swiss-based marketing agency ISL, which was selling World Cup television rights. ISL’s collapse into bankruptcy in 2001 provoked a financial crisis for FIFA and led to a criminal trial in Switzerland.

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