Cable company founder Rigas leaves prison in early release

WAYMART, Pa. – The dying 91-year-old founder of what was once among the nation’s largest cable television companies left prison Monday, three days after a judge ordered he be released early, his lawyer said.

Adelphia Communications Corp. founder John Rigas left a federal prison in Waymart, Pennsylvania, around noon, according to lawyer Larry McMichael.

Rigas, who suffers from bladder cancer, was able to walk to the car on his own as he left the prison, McMichael said. His son and fellow inmate Timothy Rigas escorted him and gave him a hug and a kiss goodbye, he said.

“Under the circumstances, he’s in good spirits,” McMichael said, adding that Rigas stopped for lunch at a diner in Scranton on his way home to Coudersport. “He’s looking forward to being home and continuing his effort to clear his name.”

Another of Rigas’ attorneys, attorney Christie Callahan, said Coudersport has planned a celebration in his honour.

“The majority of the people of Coudersport have always understood that John is a good man who never tried to defraud anyone. So I am not surprised at the genuine outpouring of love for him,” she said.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood in Manhattan signed an order allowing Rigas to be freed as soon as his medical condition permitted. The judge was responding to a written request for early release by prosecutors who said Rigas had less than six months to live because his cancer had spread to his lungs.

McMichael said the family was grateful to the prison staff for advocating for his early release.

Rigas had been serving a 12-year sentence in a $1.9 billion looting and debt-hiding scandal that led to the collapse of Adelphia, once the nation’s fifth-largest cable company with more than 5 million subscribers in 31 states and Puerto Rico. He was scheduled to be released from prison in January 2018.

His son was convicted on multiple counts of securities fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud and bank fraud. He is scheduled to be released in 2022 after serving 17 years.