PLEASANTON, Calif. -- Former EPA 'Superfund' chief Rita Lavelle entered a federal prison today to begin serving a six-month sentence for perjury resulting from the 1983 mismanagement scandal at the federal agency. Lavelle arrived at the low-security institution shortly after 11 a.m. and told reporters she was 'scared' but that she wanted to 'get it over with.'
She insisted that she was framed and blamed 'people in the Justice Department and people in the White House.'
Lavelle headed the toxic waste cleanup program of the Environmental Protection Agency before she was fired by President Reagan.
She was ushered into the campus-like prison where newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst once served a 22-month sentence and began her processing.
Lavelle, the only high-level Reagan administration official sentenced to prison for a felony relating to official duties, contended she was made a 'scapegoat' for the controversy that swept the EPA in 1983. She has been working on a book on her experiences in the agency.
Bierbower said he would file within days 'an appeal asking the Supreme Court to overturn her conviction.'
'Anything can still happen,' he said, while acknowledging that 'there's no question that sooner or later she'll go' to prison.
With time off for good behavior, Lavelle could be released from prison after five months of service. She has been rated a 'security level one' inmate, meaning she is considered the least threat to society.
Thomas Wooten, associate warden at Pleasanton, said the double-fenced facility houses about 560 male and female prisoners, including medium-security males and some maximum-security females. Inmates live in houses and are free to move about the prison grounds, he said.
Of the 22 EPA officials, including former Administrator Anne Burford, who resigned as a result of the controversy over mismanagement and sweetheart deals with industry, Lavelle was the only one indicted.
In late 1982, Lavelle denied in testimony to a House subcommittee that she was aware her former employer, the Aerojet General Corp., was involved in a major toxic waste dispute with the EPA. Witnesses testified at her trial that Lavelle participated in the cleanup case.
After Lavelle refused to resign, President Reagan fired her Feb. 7, 1983.
A federal appeals court panel refused Jan. 18 to reverse Lavelle's Dec. 1, 1983, conviction on four felony counts alleging she lied in sworn testimony and in a statement to two House subcommittees.
U.S. District Judge Norma Johnson last year sentenced her to six months in prison, a $10,000 fine and five years probation, during which she must perform charitable community work at little or no pay.