Saturday, July 26, 2014

Judge grants Barrett’s stay request

Former teachers union president questioning Texas prison assignment

February 27. 2014 11:39PM

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SCRANTON — U.S. District Judge James Munley on Thursday granted a motion to temporarily delay the sentence of Lisa Barrett, former president of the Wyoming Area Teachers Union, who pleaded guilty to embezzling nearly $60,000.

Barrett, 48, of Shavertown, was sentenced by Munley on Jan. 24 to a year behind bars for using union debit and credit cards to support a lifestyle of shopping, traveling and dining.

Her lawyers learned informally from U.S. Marshals that she has been assigned to FMC Carswell in Texas, but she has not received any formal notice to report there.

“It is the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ policy to place an individual in the least restrictive facility for which she qualifies within 500 miles of a release residence,” attorney Christopher Powell argued in a motion seeking a stay, stating that there are less restrictive prison camps in Connecticut and West Virginia.

Federal officials on Thursday filed a response opposing Barrett’s motion.

“The defendant, apparently unhappy with the place of confinement to which she has been designated by the Bureau of Prisons, now seeks a ‘stay of sentence.’ The government would point out that a District Court has no power to determine or impose any place of confinement for the imprisonment portion of a sentence. Rather, the power to determine the location of imprisonment rests with the Bureau of Prisons,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert J. O’Hara wrote.

FMC Carswell’s website refers to the facility as “an administrative security federal medical center with an adjacent minimum security satellite camp.” Its population of 1,710 female inmates is split between 271 women in the camp and 1,439 in the main facility, the website says.

“The federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas, is much more than 500 miles and administrative housing would be an inappropriate sentence,” according to Powell’s motion, filed Wednesday.

Powell on Thursday amended his motion to say Barrett “is a white collar, non-violent, first time offender and does not deserve to be assigned to a federal prison some 2,000 miles away from her home and be out of touch with any visitors from this area. Such a place of incarceration would be cruel and unjust creating hardships to the defendant because of lack of contact with family and friends.”

The original filing inadvertently omitted the word “collar,” Powell noted.

Barrett pleaded guilty Oct. 2. Prosecutors said they determined Barrett had taken more than $59,000 over several years, and that the union had determined $94,125 was missing but could not confirm the higher amount. Barrett has made $59,273 in restitution, Powell said at sentencing last month.

Munley initially gave her until March 5 to surrender to federal custody. She now has until March 21 to contact the U.S. Marshals Office to learn at which facility she will be held.

“While the District Court can make a recommendation to the Bureau of Prisons, the Bureau of Prisons has the discretion not to comply with that recommendation,” O’Hara added.

“The Court acknowledges that the place of defendant’s confinement is totally at the discretion of the Bureau of Prisons,” Munley wrote. “However, the court recommends that the Bureau of Prisons designate a facility proximate to the defendant’s home and family in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, as the place for service of her sentence.”

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