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Man seeks release from county jail due to deteriorating health

Defendant with federal murder-for-hire and distribution of controlled substance charges has been in Jackson County Jail for more than two years
Larson

A Josephine County man indicted for trying to hire a hit man is asking to be released from custody because of severe illness so he can live with his wife in Grants Pass under home confinement and electronic monitoring.

John Tobe Larson, 71, has been held in Jackson County Jail since August of 2019 for use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission for murder for hire as well as for possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.

The murder-for-hire accusation stems from a sting operation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in which an agent posed as a hit man. The drug charge is the result of tips that Larson was using his private plane to distribute marijuana from Southern Oregon into other states, then smuggling “bulk cash” payments back into Southern Oregon, according to previous reports.

Larson’s request is scheduled to be the subject of a status conference Tuesday morning in United States District Court in Medford. He wants to participate in the court proceeding by telephone or videoconferencing.

Per Olsen, the attorney representing Larson, filed a motion with the court seeking review of Larson’s detention and release from the jail because his health has significantly deteriorated over the past month.

An attempt in March of 2021 to obtain Larson’s release because of his advanced age and health condition was unsuccessful. That motion cited concern that Larson was at increased risk of “death or serious illness should he test positive for the COVID-19 virus” in an environment where social distancing and mask wearing wasn’t occurring.

The court suggested that Larson could refile his request if COVID-19 conditions change at the jail or if his health “significantly deteriorates.”

Larson was diagnosed with pneumonia on Dec. 24 during a visit with a nurse-practitioner and has been ill with “cold and flu-like symptoms” since the week of Nov. 29.

Larson and his wife, Tatiana Larson, a registered nurse, suspect he tested positive for COVID-19 and that he and another ill inmate were isolated within a living pod earlier this month to avoid spreading the virus.

However, they weren’t told about the result of the rapid COVID-19 test conducted at the jail, which was administered only after Tatiana Larson and defense counsel provided medical information explaining that his lack of a fever could still be a case of COVID-19 because of his age.

A request made for Larson’s medical records in mid-December hadn’t been fulfilled as of Thursday, Dec. 30, when the motion was filed.

“The jail is not suited to deal with older people with pneumonia, including the needed respiratory equipment and expertise,” the motion also states. “Mr. Larson’s pneumonia is all the more miserable because of the cold temperature within his pod. His perception is that, to improve air circulation, the jail is bringing in fresh air from the outside. … He is constantly cold.”

The motion also states that Larson was punished a couple of days after his pneumonia diagnosis for wrapping a pair of long johns around his head to stay warm. Because he refused to remove the head wrap, he was moved into a different jail unit and “made to lie on a steel bench for several hours without a mattress or blanket.”

Larson has been denied release because of the severity of the charges against him but because of his current physical condition “should be the primary factor warranting a release from jail so that he may return home and receive proper medical care from his wife and a physician,” the motion added.

Reach reporter Terri Harber at 541-776-4468 or tharber@rosebudmedia.com.