Bost goes to prison in W. Virginia Former Irvington mayor appealing graft sentence

Bost goes to prison in W. Virginia

Former Irvington mayor appealing graft sentence

December 02, 2003 Star-Ledger

Former Irvington Mayor Sara Bost reported to a federal prison camp in West Virginia yesterday after losing a bid to remain free while she appeals her sentence on corruption charges.

Bost arrived for a year-long stay at the women's minimum-security camp in Alderson, a prison official confirmed.

The town is a mountainside hamlet of barely 1,000 people in the southern part of the state, near the Virginia border. It's also 480 miles from the New Jersey township where Bost served two terms as mayor, before her once-rising political star crashed.

Bost will be assigned to a dormitory, fitted for a uniform and work at a camp job that probably will pay her no more than 40 cents an hour, officials said.

"All inmates are required to work," said Carla Wilson, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. "Work is our most important program."

Alderson sits in the shadow of the Allegheny Mountains, with longer, colder, whiter winters than northern New Jersey. The town has been home to a federal women's prison for at least 60 years. The facility now houses 980 inmates, Wilson said.

Brick buildings line the campus, which, unlike higher-security prisons, has no fences. Inside, prisoners share rooms in their dormitories and can take educational courses or learn trades in the prison workshops.

The prison term was something of a surprise after Bost, 55, pleaded guilty in April to a single count of witness tampering. In return for her plea, prosecutors halted her trial and agreed to drop more serious charges alleging that Bost demanded and took payoffs from township contractors.

Prosecutors also said they would not object if Bost argued for probation at her September sentencing.

But U.S. District Judge Joseph Greenaway stunned lawyers and the defendant when he turned aside Bost's request and instead gave her the stiffest penalty he could for her crime under federal sentencing guidelines.

By ordering her to serve exactly 12 months, Greenaway ensured that Bost won't be released early. Inmates sentenced to a year or less cannot earn time off their term for good behavior. Greenaway also rebuffed a request by Bost last week to remain free on bail while her attorneys prepare to appeal his sentence. He told her to report to prison as scheduled.

The judge also ordered her to perform 150 hours of community service, pay a $2,000 fine and undergo two years of supervision after her release. Bost's attorneys have notified the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that they will challenge the sentence, but have not yet filed their arguments.

Defense attorney Alex Bowman confirmed in a telephone call yesterday that Bost had begun serving her term, then hung up.

Meanwhile, prosecutors said they were pleased that Bost's prison term has begun.

"It's Mrs. Bost's right to appeal her sentence, but she can do that while she begins serving it, too," said Michael Drewniak, spokesman for U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie.

Bost, an accountant, was accused of taking a $1,500 kickback from a paving contractor in 1999 and another $7,000 in bribes earlier from the developers of the sprawling Maple Gardens apartment complex.

The township's former business administrator, David Fuller, became a government witness and tape-recorded his conversations with Bost. FBI agents also videotaped her as she frisked Fuller and asked if he was wearing a wire. Bost denied any wrongdoing.

A former Essex County freeholder, Bost became the latest in a growing list of New Jersey public figures to trade their offices for a prison cell in the last two years.

More than two dozen have been indicted, convicted or sentenced on federal corruption charges during that span.

Former Paterson Mayor Martin Barnes is serving a 37-month term at a prison camp in Alabama. Former Essex County Executive James Treffinger is scheduled to report Jan. 9 to begin his 13-month sentence. Former Hudson County Freeholder Nidia Davila-Colon faces at least three years in prison when she is sentenced Dec. 15.

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