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Judge allows Baltimore Mayor Pugh extra time to report to prison

A federal judge has agreed to extend by two months the date that former Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh must report to prison in Alabama.

Pugh had been slated to report at the end of April, but U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow agreed to extend the date to no earlier than June 26.

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Pugh’s attorneys requested a delay to June 1 on Wednesday, citing the desire to resolve state-level perjury charges and to try to change her prison designation. She is slated to be held at the Aliceville women’s prison.

Federal prosecutors responded Thursday that they were going along with the request only because of Justice Department policies in place to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. Prosecutors specifically rejected Pugh’s claim that a delay should be granted until the state perjury case is settled. They also dismissed her argument that she needed time to appeal her placement in an Alabama prison.

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“Such a delay is consistent with Department of Justice recommendations and the proactive steps it is taking in coordination with federal courts to mitigate the spread of the virus,” wrote prosecutor Martin Clarke. “Minimizing the potential introduction of the virus into the prison setting can be achieved by limiting the movement of defendants who have been ordered to self-report to a BOP facility and do not represent a risk of flight or a risk to public safety. The defendant is in this category.”

Pugh’s attorneys attached an email from the Federal Public Defender’s Office that said the Bureau of Prisons is imposing a temporary halt to moving persons into the system, instead keeping detained inmates at facilities like the Chesapeake Detention Center or Northern Neck Regional Jail.

Pugh received a three-year prison sentence for charges related to the “Healthy Holly” children’s book scandal.

Pugh still has pending perjury charges in Anne Arundel County, brought by the Office of the State Prosecutor in December. A court hearing in that case is scheduled for May 14, after being delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Pugh’s attorneys say if she were to report to the Alabama facility before that case is resolved, she will have to be transported back to Anne Arundel County, a nearly 900-mile trek.

They also want to try to get her prison assignment changed to a facility closer to Maryland. Chasanow recommended that she be housed in West Virginia, but the Bureau of Prisons assigned her to the Alabama prison.

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