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Where And When Will Catherine Pugh Serve Her Sentence? For Now, It’s Unclear

Emily Sullivan/WYPR

Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh will face three years in a to-be-determined federal prison after she pleaded guilty last year to four federal charges including tax fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow adjourned Pugh’s sentencing hearing Thursday without setting a date for the former mayor to report. But she said it must be no later than April 13.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons will determine where Pugh serves her time by assessing the needs outlined in her presentence report and identifying which facilities have open beds.  

Steve Levine, an attorney at Rosenberg Martin Greenberg and a former federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Maryland, said Pugh’s status as a nonviolent first-time offender means only a few prison facilities will be eligible for to take her. 

Levine, who spoke on WYPR’s Midday with Tom Hall on Friday, said his best guess is the Federal Prison Camp in Alderson, West Virginia. 

The prison was nicknamed “Camp Cupcake” after the businesswoman and television personality Martha Stewart served time there in 2004. 

“It’s nestled in the hollows in West Virginia,” he said. “It’s a very pretty setting, but it is a prison.”

Levine has visited the prison and said its nickname is unfair to people who serve out their sentences there.

“There’s no such thing as easy time,” said Ronald Weich, dean of the University of Baltimore’s law school. “Yes, there are some prisons that are less restrictive and are in pretty settings. But to lose one's liberty is a shattering experience, and the women who serve in Alderson or at other facilities around the country are not in a happy place.”

As for the undetermined start date, Weich said that meant Judge Chasanow decided that Pugh is at no risk of fleeing the jurisdiction. The former mayor had to surrender her passport after pleading guilty last year. 

The weeks or months in between a sentencing and start date “would allow someone who has accepted responsibility to get her affairs in order and say goodbye to her family and then report for the prison sentence,” Weich said.

Pugh is due to appear in state court on May 14 on a perjury charge. The Office of the Maryland State Prosecutor alleges that Pugh failed to disclose her ownership of Healthy Holly LLC on required financial disclosure forms when she was a state senator. 

Weich said it’s unlikely that Pugh would go from a federal prison to a state prison if convicted of that charge.

“The state judge would likely take account of the federal sentence and fold the state criminal liability into the federal judgment,” the law professor said. 

There is a possibility, Weich said, that there could be separate and consecutive sentences.

Emily Sullivan is a city hall reporter at WYPR, where she covers all things Baltimore politics. She joined WYPR after reporting for NPR’s national airwaves. There, she was a reporter for NPR’s news desk, business desk and presidential conflicts of interest team. Sullivan won a national Edward R. Murrow Award for an investigation into a Trump golf course's finances alongside members of the Embedded team. She has also won awards from the Chesapeake Associated Press Broadcasters Association for her use of sound and feature stories. She has provided news analysis on 1A, The Takeaway, Here & Now and All Things Considered.
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