Convicted former Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh has been assigned to serve her sentence at an Alabama facility nearly 900 miles from home, and is asking for a delay in when she must report so she can resolve pending state charges and try to get a new prison assignment.
The disclosures come in a new filing by her defense attorneys in U.S. District Court asking that her reporting date be extended to June 1.
Pugh, who was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to charges related to the “Healthy Holly" children’s book fraud scheme, was originally slated to report to prison on April 13. She received an extension until April 27 so she could stay with her niece through the school year.
Pugh also has pending state perjury charges brought by the Maryland State Prosecutor’s office, which Pugh’s attorneys say were expected to be “resolved” before she reported to prison. But the disruption of state courts as a result of the coronavirus pandemic pushed that hearing back to May 14.
Attorney Andy White wrote that Pugh has since been assigned to the Federal Correctional Institution, Aliceville, a women’s medium-security prison that is about two hours west of Birmingham, Alabama, and 900 miles from Baltimore.
“To require the Defendant to surrender to BOP [Bureau of Prisons] custody in Alabama, only to then have to be immediately returned to Maryland for the final adjudication of her state law charges, serves no legitimate purpose, unduly burdens the United States Marshals Service in having to unnecessarily transport the Defendant back to Maryland, could cause undue delays in the state court proceedings, and frustrates the Defendant’s access to BOP programs that she can benefit from while serving her sentence in a designated facility,” White wrote in a Wednesday filing.
Moreover, Pugh’s attorneys say they want to contest the assignment to the Alabama facility, saying it goes against recommendations in the First Step Act.
“An extension of the current surrender date would allow the Defendant time to petition the BOP to change her designation to a facility consistent with the First Step Act’s requirement that BOP ‘place [a] prisoner in a facility as close as practicable to the prisoner’s primary residence, and to the extent practicable, in a facility within 500 driving miles of that residence,'” her attorneys wrote.
The judge in Pugh’s case recommended that she be sentenced to a facility in West Virginia.
Federal prosecutors have not yet responded to the filing.
Pugh’s political fall began in March when The Baltimore Sun revealed she had entered into a no-bid deal with the University of Maryland Medical System, where Pugh sat on the board of directors, to buy 100,000 copies of her sloppily self-published “Healthy Holly” books for $500,000. She later resigned from the board and as mayor amid multiple investigations into her finances and the book sales. In total, she netted more than $850,000, prosecutors say.
At the same time, she failed to print thousands of copies, double-sold thousands more and took many others to use for self-promotion, according to prosecutors. Investigators also uncovered that she laundered illegal campaign contributions and failed to pay taxes.
State prosecutors brought perjury charges in December, alleging she broke the law by failing to disclose her “Healthy Holly” children’s book business on financial disclosure forms during her time as a state senator.