Lawyer Says Imprisonment For Eating Poppy Seeds ‘Ludicrous’
NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ All Anthony Clarizio did to get himself sent back to prison, his attorney says, was eat a bagel laced with poppy seeds.
″Even some of my conservative friends couldn’t believe it,″ Public Defender Richard Reeve told U.S. District Judge Ellen B. Burns on Monday. ″To send someone to jail for eating poppy seeds is ludicrous.″
Clarizio of Stratford was released to a halfway house about four months ago to complete his sentence for loan-sharking and extortion. He was to be released Oct. 1.
The halfway house forbids residents to eat food containing poppy seeds because studies have shown that urine tests cannot distinguish between exposure to poppy seeds and exposure to heroin or other illegal drugs made from the poppy plant, Reeve said.
Reeve asked Burns to reduce his client’s sentence. He presented affidavits stating that Clarizio and a friend ate bagels brought to the friend’s house by a neighbor Aug. 9. The dough contained poppy seeds, according to the manufacturer.
Clarizio, who is in his 50s, doesn’t have a drug problem and there is no evidence he has used illegal narcotics, Reeve said.
Nevertheless, he was sent back to federal prison in Danbury on Aug. 24, five days after failing a urine test, to complete his sentence.
Burns said she would issue a ruling soon.
John Durham of the U.S. attorney’s office said Clarizio should appeal the halfway house’s decision instead of seeking a reduction in sentence.
Also, Durham said, Clarizio doesn’t have a constitutional right to serve part of his sentence in a halfway house and he shouldn’t be rewarded for violating rules.
″He is not in prison for eating poppy seeds,″ Durham said. ″He is in prison for loan sharking.″