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Fyre Festival’s Billy McFarland released from solitary confinement for prison move

By | Published on Monday 19 April 2021

Billy McFarland

Fyre Festival founder Billy McFarland has been transferred to a new prison, following several months in solitary confinement as a result of his involvement with a podcast about the failed event.

McFarland’s attorney, Jason Russo, tells Business Insider that McFarland has “got his freedom back” after a long spell in solitary confinement. Russo adds that he doesn’t feel that his client’s recent extra punishment was justified.

“It was punitive”, he says of the way prison authorities responded to the podcast. “At first, they said he violated rules by speaking to the media – [but] there is no such rule. Then they accused him of doing three-way calls, which you’re not allowed to do – but these were not three-way calls”.

Another complaint from the authorities related to photographs taken in prison and shared on an Instagram account purporting to be run “by Billy’s team”. But, says Russo: “Every picture that was sent out was taken with a commissary camera and approved to be distributed”.

In the end, says Russo, all but one of the charges made against his client in relation to the podcast were dropped. McFarland remains accused of breaking a rule that forbids prisoners from sharing commissary funds. Initially, he was placed in solitary confinement for 90 days, but this was apparently extended until his transfer – from FCI Elkton prison in Lisbon, Ohio to FTC Oklahoma City – was approved.

The podcast, ‘Dumpster Fyre’, was launched in October last year but ran out of steam after eight episodes as McFarland was no longer able to contribute – he having been placed in solitary confinement following the publication of a trailer for the show.

Although the podcast also spoke to various other people involved with Fyre Festival, its big selling point was that it would tell McFarland’s side of the story, which he claims has not been properly represented in the two documentaries made about the failed event.

Fyre Festival, of course, was billed as a luxury experience in the Bahamas. However, when ticketholders arrived at the festival in April 2017, they found that the infrastructure for even a basic event was not in place. The whole thing then shut down before it even properly started.

McFarland was subsequently convicted of defrauding his investors in 2018 and is now serving a six year sentence. He was also ordered to repay $26 million to the investors who he defrauded – and the aim of ‘Dumpster Fyre’ was, in part, to raise some of the money required to do that.

This latest stint in solitary confinement was not McFarland’s first. He previously spent three months locked up alone after being found with a flash drive – an item inmates are not allowed to possess. He was apparently using the drive to store a book he was writing about the Fyre Festival.

In the first episode of ‘Dumpster Fyre’, McFarland said that it was during that time that he realised just how “stupid and idiotic” the actions that had landed him in prison had been, leaving him wanting to dedicate himself to “helping those I hurt and helping those I let down”.

He also seemingly hit upon the idea of launching a podcast with the help of outside collaborators, instead of continuing to work on a book saved on a contraband USB stick.

In the end, the podcast shared very little information of interest, despite some lengthy interviews with McFarland and others. McFarland also used it to launch a line of merch based on his own prison uniform. It’s not clear if there will be an attempt to relaunch the show now that he is able to communicate with the outside world again, or if he’s had another solitary revelation.