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Phillips imprisoned far away at Clinton

Ralph "Bucky" Phillips was placed in a remote maximum security prison about 170 miles north of Albany near the Canadian border on Thursday, state Department of Correctional Services officials said.

Phillips had hoped to be sent to a prison closer to his family and friends in Western New York, but placement in Clinton Correctional Facility at Dannemora is about as far away as anyone could find in the state system for the former fugitive. "Acting Department of Corrections Commissioner Lucien Leclaire decided Clinton was the most suitable place for inmate Phillips," department spokeswoman Linda Foglia said.

Phillips had requested that he be housed at either Attica or Auburn. His friends and relatives reacted to the far-away placement as mean-spirited.

"This is evidence that the state did not want justice," said Wendy Gambles, a family friend and Phillips' supporter. "They wanted vengeance. They thought that they could tuck him away into a place where none of us could get to him, but we will not forsake him."

New inmates are routinely placed into a state prison receiving center for assessment before being assigned to a prison, but Phillips was transported directly to Clinton, prison officials said.

Phillips, 44, has been viewed as a high risk for escape. On April 2 he walked away from the Erie County Correctional Facility in Alden -- triggering the biggest manhunt in state history. Corrections officials also are concerned about comments he allegedly made to authorities while awaiting sentencing for killing State Trooper Joseph A. Longobardo and wounding Troopers Donald H. Baker Jr. and Sean Brown while he was on the lam.

" . . . he told our deputies he would escape again," Chautauqua County Sheriff Joseph Gerace said earlier this week when Phillips was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murder of Longobardo last summer.

Phillips had tried unsuccessfully to withdraw his guilty pleas in the shootings of the three troopers after he received word that the state prison system was building a special cell to contain him. Phillips, according to Gambles, was upset that he would be denied contact visits with his family members.

Part of the plea deal, Gambles said, called for placing Phillips in a prison near his relatives. Foglia declined to describe the conditions of Phillips' incarceration at Clinton.

News Staff Reporter Dan Herbeck contributed to this report.

e-mail: lmichel@buffnews.com

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