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Back gets life home detention

PIKEVILLE – An elderly Magoffin County man who was convicted in 2013 on federal drug charges was resentenced, yet, again, this time receiving life home detention.

In 2013, Howard Harlow Back, 84, of the Lick Branch Community off KY 378, was found guilty on one count of conspiracy to distribute Oxycodone and 12 counts of distribution of Oxycodone after a three-day trial held in U.S. District Court in Pikeville, and sentenced to 22 years, with 10 years probation to follow and a fine totaled at $521,300.

In 2017, after filing numerous appeals, Back’s sentence was reduced to 17.5 years imprisonment, and an amended judgment upheld the same sentencing in 2019, then in April this year that sentence was vacated after he appealed the sentencing due to his attorney failing to file a notice of appeal in a timely manner.

Four Court of Appeals cases and five terminated attorneys since his 2012 case began, often times representing himself before the court, Back was scheduled to be resentenced in August last year, then rescheduled for September, at which time it was continued, yet, again, due to Back having a limb amputated, pushing the resentencing hearing to November.

That hearing was rescheduled due to Back’s current attorney, Noah R. Friend, having a newborn baby and wife recovering from a C-section, asking the hearing to be set after December 1. The resentencing hearing was scheduled as a video conference for December 17, but that hearing was canceled due to COVID issues at the prison, according to court records.

At the March 10 sentencing hearing Back received time served, plus 90 days imprisonment on each of the 13 charges, to run concurrently, then supervised release for life. The court stipulated that Back is to be placed on home detention for his term of supervised release, stipulating that he must remain at his place of residence except for medical appointments and other activities approved in advance by the probation officer.

He must maintain a telephone at his residence without any special services, modems, answering machines, or cordless telephones for the full term of his home detention. He also must submit his person, property, house, residence, vehicle, papers, computers, office, or any other electronic communications or data storage devices or media to a search conducted by a United States probation officer. Failure to submit to a search will be grounds for revocation or release and he must warn any other occupants that the premises may be subject to searches.

As is usual with conditions of release, he cannot own any firearms or dangerous weapons, conduct any illegal activity or have contact with anyone he knows is engaged in illegal activity. He cannot knowingly communicate or interact with anyone who has been convicted of a felony without first getting the permission of the probation officer.

He was also ordered to pay $1,300 in assessment fees and a $20,000 fine, which he has already paid. He is also to forfeit his interest in a money judgment in the amount of $500,000, according to schedule of payments included in the amended judgment filed on March 11.

Back is currently being held at the Butner Low Security Federal Correction Institution, in North Carolina.

Back’s attorney, Noah Friend, had asked in a sentencing memorandum in December that home confinement be considered, noting that Back, “does not have a lengthy criminal history, and has previously served as an elected official, has a lengthy and varied work history, and has served in the United States armed forces.”

Given his age, now at 84 years of age, and his lengthy medical records just from the last two years, including a “serious operation performed on his foot, which resulted in an infection,” a long list of medications, Friend asked that home confinement be considered in his case.

“Based on the Defendant’s age, health, and general life expectancy, continued incarceration will serve as essentially a life sentence,” Friend wrote in the memorandum. “If there are concerns about the Defendant engaging in criminal behavior in the future, these can be addressed through the imposition of restrictions via home confinement, or other conditions of supervision.”

It is important to note, however, that Back is no stranger to the legal system. In 1991 he was sentenced on a manslaughter conviction and in 2004 he was sentenced on solicitation to murder and facilitation of arson charges. Both cases were in Magoffin County.

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