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Lavelle Walks Out of Prison Still Blaming ‘Power Grab’

Associated Press

Rita Lavelle, former chief of the federal toxic waste “Superfund” program, was released from prison today after serving 4 1/2 months of a 6-month sentence for lying to Congress.

“Thank God it’s over,” the former Environmental Protection Agency official said at a brief news conference outside the Federal Correctional Institute.

“My experience has been a unique one, a dramatic one. . . . The fact that I was a woman caught in a power grab between the legislative and executive branches of the government has made it even more intriguing,” she said.

Lavelle, 37, said she has finished the first draft of a book on her experiences. In addition to the prison sentence, she was fined $10,000.

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She spent her time in prison teaching English to fellow prisoners and was released early because of her good behavior, her lawyer, James J. Bierbower, said.

She plans to live in California, she told reporters.

Lavelle, who was fired from her job by President Reagan, was convicted in December, 1983, of lying about when she discovered that her former employer, Aerojet General Corp. of Sacramento, was dumping toxic wastes at the Stringfellow Acid Pits near Riverside.

When Lavelle surrendered at the prison gates last April, she said she had been framed and that taxpayers’ money had been wasted prosecuting her instead of “some of the world’s worst polluters.”

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The U.S. Supreme Court is not expected to decide whether to hear an appeal of her conviction until it begins its 1985-86 term in October.

Her appeal contends that a trial judge erred by barring cross-examination of EPA attorneys about possible ethical violations, and that evidence of other false testimony before Congress should not have been introduced at her trial.

She served her term at the prison 40 miles southeast of San Francisco, a minimum-security institution where Patricia Hearst was jailed for participating in a bank robbery with her kidnapers, the Symbionese Liberation Army.

“She’s been a model prisoner,” her attorney said.

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