A Houston man is among the earliest beneficiaries of changes to the “compassionate release” program that took effect with the First Step Act late last year.

This week, Richard Evans, who was 22 months into a five year sentence for a health care fraud conviction, was granted a motion for early release by U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt for the Southern District of Texas.

The 74-year-old’s initial request to the Federal Bureau of Prisons was denied after he reported a mass in his neck in October. Under the new law, prisoners can appeal directly to the courts when denied by BOP.

Evans’ legal team, consisting of David Gerger, Samy Khalil, and Ashlee McFarlane of Gerger, Khalil & Hennessy in Houston, argued that BOP was not equipped to handle the life-threatening condition. which they said had since grown to a 5-inch malignant melanoma.

“Without the court option, our client would die in prison. Instead, we had an independent judge and fair-minded prosecutor, and the new law worked,” Gerger said in an email. “We are very grateful: this is why you go to law school.”