Seda starts 33-month sentence today

Ashland activist will serve time in low-security Colorado prison that houses former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, ex-Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling

Pete Seda is set to begin his 33-month sentence for money-laundering and tax-cheat convictions today in a Colorado prison considered one of the country's easiest federal prisons to serve time in.

The 54-year-old former Ashland peace activist will trade his Portland apartment and GPS monitoring bracelet today for a bed in the Federal Correctional Institution of Englewood, a low-security prison of nearly 1,000 inmates 15 miles outside of Denver.

"Pete is going," Steve Wax, Seda's main defense attorney, said Tuesday.

"He's flying down there and he's going to the prison."

Once there, Seda could join fellow inmate and Enron scandal heavyweight Jeffrey Skilling, the company's former CEO, in a game of foosball, and next month might find himself in the commissary line with disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich buying green tea and Tootsie Pops.

Though Forbes and Money magazines each have called Englewood one of the easiest prisons in which to serve time, Seda's not walking into a Club Fed atmosphere, said John Sell, the prison's public information officer.

"It doesn't matter where you go in the Bureau of Prisons, you'll get similar treatment and amenities," Sell said.

U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan ordered Seda, known to prison officials as Pirouz Sedaghaty, to surrender at the prison's front door or to U.S. marshals by 2 p.m.

He will serve time while he appeals his September 2010 convictions for helping smuggle $150,000 through his Al-Haramain Ashland-based Islamic charity to Saudi Arabia in 2000, then lying on the charity's tax returns to cover up the scheme.

He already has been issued a bureau register number, 69971-065. Skilling, the highest-ranking Enron official convicted in that scandal who is serving his 24-year sentence for fraud, is number 29296-179 at Englewood.

Blagojevich has the register number 40892-424. A federal judge in Illinois ordered him to report to Englewood March 15 to begin his 14-year term for crimes that included trying to sell or trade the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama for campaign cash or a high-paying job.

Skilling, Blagojevich and Seda were all ordered to prison after failing to convince federal judges they should remain free while their appeals were considered.

At Englewood, the all-male prison built in 1938 sports a weight room, gymnasium, hobby room, wellness center and courses in everything from ceramics to leatherwork. Inmates have access to an electronic law library and can earn graduate degrees through correspondence courses.

New inmates go through an orientation and receive full health and mental-health screenings, usually within their first 24 hours at the prison, Sell said.

Inmates generally are required to work in the prison, which operates somewhat like "a little city," Sell said. Seda, who owned an arborist business while in Ashland, could find himself working in anything from serving food to the laundry or landscaping, Sell said.

"We don't have use for a lot of arborists," he said.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at

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