Ex-Va. delegate expected time in federal pen to be ‘a lot worse’

PETERSBURG,  Va. (WTVR) — Former governor Bob McDonnell is not the first politician to be charged with a crime in Virginia.

Former state delegate Fenton Bland, who was sentenced to five years in a federal prison for bank fraud, spoke exclusively for the first time about what it was like on the inside.

“I expected things to be a lot worse than they were. I really did,” Bland told CBS 6 News reporter Sandra Jones on Friday. “It is a punishment. I don’t want anyone to think that it’s a situation where you’re just on the sideline for a minute.”

Bland, now a business consultant in his hometown of Petersburg, called his time behind bars a life changing experience.

“It’s one thing to deal with it within the compounds of your family and your close friends. But to have to deal with it in the public eye is a different matter,” said Bland.

In 2005, Bland plead guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and resigned from the General Assembly the same day.

Bland served 20 months of a 57 month sentence at the Cumberland County federal prison camp in Maryland.

Bland described it as a dormitory style setting where he was never handcuffed. While Bland would not call the accommodations plush, he said it could have been a lot worse.

In fact, he had up to five days of family visitation and was allowed to work seven days a week.

“I was working at a physical fitness facility. I was able to exercise. We even had a 9-hole golf course,” Bland explained.

CBS 6 Legal Analyst Todd Stone said people convicted of white-collar crimes are generally housed in these type of minimum security prisons.

“What they look at is whether somebody has a prior criminal record. And if so, what kind of a record is it. And also what is the nature of the offense,” Stone said.

Stone further explained why convicted felons are sent to those locations.

“The reason behind it is not so much that they deserve less punishment, but it’s the Bureau of Prisons. It’s expensive to have lots of wire, and lots of staff, lots of security to maintain it at that level,” said Stone.

Bland, who served with McDonnell in the General Assembly, said the governor has earned his respect.

“I’ve always found him to be a very honest and trustworthy man. I hope he continues to carry himself the way he does,” said Bland. “My prayers and thoughts are definitely with him and his family as they go through this transformation of the legal system.”

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