Steven O’Brien had been serving a sentence for the fatal assault of Danny McGee in 2018

Irish man Steven O’Brien was released early from prison on March 26 in New York City where he was serving a sentence for the 2018 fatal assault of Irish man Danny McGee.

O’Brien’s lawyer Matthew Gartenberg told RTE News: "Steven has been released and is now starting a new chapter in his life.”

McGee’s mother Colleen, a native of New York who now lives in Ireland, told RTE News that she knew of O’Brien’s early release and that she was disappointed.

Read More: Irish New York bar brawl killer gets six months prison sentence

RTE reports that O’Brien’s release is connected to the Covid-19 outbreak that is spreading in New York City, currently a “hot spot” of cases in the US, which recently surpassed China as having the most confirmed cases.

On March 24, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Twitter: “We’re making important decisions about our City jails. No one over 70 or with pre-existing conditions should be in our jail system right now and we are working to make that a reality.

“There are approximately 300 people with misdemeanors and non-violent felonies that I’m going to move to release immediately. For those that fall outside my jurisdiction, I am alerting the State and District Attorneys to my concerns.”

Later, on March 26, the day that O’Brien was released, de Blasio said in a tweet that the city’s jail population had reached its lowest since 1949 in the wake of releases:

Our city jail population is now 4,906. That’s the fewest detainees we’ve had in our jails since 1949.

By tonight, the number of inmates released in response to the COVID-19 crisis will go from 200 up to 375.

We will continue to address this in the safest way possible.

— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) March 26, 2020

In November 2018, Dublin-native McGee and O’Brien had reportedly gotten into an argument at The Gaslight bar in Sunnyside, Queens the night before Thanksgiving. Their fight spilled outside, where O’Brien ultimately punched 21-year-old McGee once in the head, knocking him unconscious. O’Brien fled the scene and McGee was later pronounced dead at the hospital.

McGee, who was born in the US and raised in Co Longford, was set to return back to Ireland in the months after the attack.

Read More: Irish suspect arrested in death of Irishman killed with one punch outside New York bar

In January of this year, 26-year-old O’Brien pleaded guilty to the offense at the Queens County Criminal Court. A six-month sentence was agreed as part of a plea deal. His sentence began on January 8.

#NEW Emotional Steven O’Brien of #Dublin gets sentenced in Queens, NY court for 2018 #OnePunch death of fellow Irishman, #DannyMcGee. O’Brien made plea deal with DA: 6 mos. in jail. McGee suffered lethal head wound after punch outside Sunnyside pub.

— Mary Murphy (@MurphyPIX) January 8, 2020