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Tim Rigas wins early release from prison

Even after he won his freedom from prison in 2016, John J. Rigas would talk about the deep wound that remained.

He was speaking not about the terminal cancer that led to his early release, but about the son, Timothy, he left behind in prison.

"But he'll be home soon," the 94-year old Rigas told a reporter last year. "And I hope to be alive."

Rigas' wish came true Monday when his son returned home after 12 years in prison. He will serve the balance of his sentence in home confinement.

"It's pretty hard to hold back a few tears," John Rigas said during an interview with The Buffalo News. "But now that he's home, the wound can heal."

Tim Rigas' release marks an important chapter in the nearly two-decade-long legal battle that began with a grand jury indictment charging he and his father with fraud.

At the core of the indictment was the allegation that John Rigas used his company, Adelphia Communications, then the fifth-largest cable TV company in the country, as a private piggy bank.

Rigas, at the time, also owned the Buffalo Sabres.

A jury found the two men guilty of fraud after a trial in New York City in 2004. Tim Rigas, now 63, was sentenced to 17 years in prison.

"You can never find the words to express the emotion and overwhelming feelings you have at a time like this," John Rigas said of his son's release Monday.

Cancer-stricken Rigas beats the odds as he fights to bring son home from prison

In a Facebook post, Rigas said his son was benefiting from a new law allowing for the early release of inmates convicted of nonviolent crimes and who have served two-thirds of their sentence and are over the age of 60.

"He and I continue to hope that our convictions will be overturned in the habeas corpus appeal that is pending in New York City, where our trial was held in 2004," Rigas said in his Facebook post.

Rigas said the family’s happiness over Tim's return home is "tempered by a profound sadness because Doris will not be here to share it with us."

Rigas' wife died in 2014 while he and his son were still in prison. They were not allowed to attend the funeral.

Even now, more than a decade after their convictions, the Rigases remain controversial figures in Coudersport, the small northern Pennsylvania town that gave birth to the Adelphia empire and where Rigas returned after his early release from prison.

Many of the town's residents still revere Rigas, while others, some of whom lost their life savings in Adelphia's collapse, despise him.

His conviction tainted the 50-year legacy of one of the nation's cable pioneers, an entrepreneur who started with a movie theater and small cable franchise in Coudersport and built it into a major force in the industry.

Adelphia expanded when consolidation swept through the cable industry but, through it all, remained a family business, always based in Coudersport.

Diagnosed with terminal bladder cancer while in prison and given less than six months to live, Rigas received "compassionate" early release in 2016. Still alive three years later, he once attributed his survival to the immunotherapy sessions he received every three weeks.

He also spent his time out of prison working on his son's release. The two men shared a bunk area at Canaan federal penitentiary in Waymart, Pa., during part of the time they were in prison together.

“Tim has never brought up the subject of how hard it is,” Rigas said of his son's time in prison. “It’s amazing what we talk about – how we are taking care of his daughter, and what’s new in the community. He never gives up.”

After prison, ‘the fight continues’ for John Rigas

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