With the news that federal officials are recommending the early release of Massachusetts imprisoned former House Speaker Sal DiMasi, WGBH Morning Edition host Bob Seay discussed the request with WGBH’s Emily Rooney, who is closely following the case.

Bob Seay:  Sal DiMasi has been suffering from cancer of the mouth and prostate. He was convicted of corruption charges in 2011 and sentenced to eight years in prison, but his family has been pushing for “compassionate release.”  Good Morning Emily.

Emily Rooney: Good Morning Bob.

BS: So DiMasi isn't scheduled for release until November of 2018, but this request has been circulating for years. Who made the request?

ER: Well, actually the Bureau of Prisons is makes the request even though the family and his attorneys had been pushing for it. It really has to come from the Bureau of Prisons and then it goes through federal prosecutors here, and then prosecutors here including Carmen Ortiz U.S. Attorney passed on it, they approved it and now it goes to Judge Mark Wolf, who was the original person who sentenced him. And if Wolfe approves it, DiMasi will be released immediately.

BS: How sick is DiMasi?

ER: You know, he's really not doing well at all. I’m friends with his wife Deborah DiMasi, and the biggest problem with Bob is that he can't eat. His saliva glands have been severely compromised so he uses packages of mustard and ketchup and mayonnaise to get food down. He can only eat small bites at a time. I mean, when I actually had a brief phone conversation with him almost two years ago... he had lost 40 pounds then. So he was a big guy. He's over six feet and he's lost a lot of weight even since then, so eating is a problem for him.

BS:  Now generally how difficult is it to get early release and how sick does one have to be?

ER: They just changed the rulings on this. For prisoners that are over a certain age and have served more than half of their time and are sick. So it used to be they only released maybe two dozen or three dozen a year out of 220,000 people who are in federal prison. But they changed, the Bureau of Prisons change the guidelines on this to include people that are old. He's not really old, he's 71, but... DiMasi now qualifies in that category. He was going to be released one year earlier than the eight-year term anyway because of good behavior and all that. But so he’s served five years. He will have his sentence reduced by two.

BS: And how quickly can the judge make a decision?

ER: He could do it right away. Although there is some speculation that he's going to have a hearing on this. I don't know why he needs to have a hearing, but Judge Mark Wolf could make the decision today if you wanted to. But he may stall it a little bit and have a hearing.