PITTSBURGH - Actor-comedian Tommy Chong reported to a privately run federal prison to serve his nine-month sentence for conspiring to sell bongs and other drug paraphernalia over the Internet even as his attorneys prepared to argue for his release pending appeal.
Chong, 65, was sentenced Sept. 11 by U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab in Pittsburgh. He reported Wednesday to a minimum-security facility run for the Federal Bureau of Prisons near Bakersfield, Calif.
The judge has set an Oct. 16 hearing on a request by Chong's attorney to release the actor, best-known as the drug-addled Chong in the Cheech & Chong movies and comedy routines, while he appeals the sentence to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
At his sentencing, Chong said he got carried away with the fictional persona, but had quit smoking pot and wanted to use his celebrity to help people stay off drugs.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Houghton argued that Chong grew wealthy glamorizing drug use and trivializing law enforcement in his films and said Chong used his characters to promote his business.
Chong's attorneys argued that he should be sentenced no more harshly than any of the other defendants thus far in the national drug-paraphernalia investigation. They wanted him to be sentenced to no more than six months' house arrest and six months' probation.