Corrections officials reveal reason Charleston trumpeter Joe Ambrosia was returned to prison before death

Charleston trumpeter Joe Ambrosia died in a hospital on Sept. 12 after being returned to custody to serve out a 7-year drug sentence.

State corrections officials have revealed more details about why Charleston trumpeter Joe Ambrosia was hauled back into custody just days after being released from prison on a medical furlough due to terminal cancer.

Ambrosia, who had been serving a 7-year sentence on a cocaine-trafficking charge, was granted an early release from prison on Aug. 22 because of his advanced illness. He was taken back into custody on Aug. 30 and died 13 days later in a hospital.

Jean Ambrosi, the trumpeter’s son, told The Post and Courier last week that corrections officials revoked the furlough because of a violation, but didn’t offer a clear explanation of what the violation was.

“No one will tell me why,” he said. “We followed the rules.”

Not so, corrections spokesman Clark Newsom said.

One requirement of Ambrosia’s furlough was that his son serve as his sponsor on the outside and be directly responsible for his care and oversight, Newsom said. His son, who lives in Canada, had secured an apartment in Columbia for that purpose.

But Jean Ambrosi left the country to go back to his home in Canada on Aug. 29, leaving a friend of the family in charge of his father, Newsom said.

A hospice nurse reported this development to corrections officials, who deemed it a violation of the medical furlough and “we were forced to take Mr. Ambrosia back into custody on Aug. 30th at our Kirkland Correctional Center medical facility,” Newsom said.

Due to Ambrosia’s condition, he was transferred on Sept. 8 to Palmetto Health-Richland Hospital, where he died four days later, Newsom said. Newsom said privacy concerns prevented him from further discussing Ambrosia’s medical treatment and details surrounding his death.

Jean Ambrosi could not be reached for contact this week. Last week he said the reason he briefly returned to Canada was to retrieve his 2-year-old son so the boy could meet his grandfather for the first time. He returned to Columbia and found his father gone, returned to state custody.

Ambrosia, 71, had learned piano in prison and composed enough fresh music to fill an album. Reunited with his horn, he hoped to record the album before he died, and his son hoped to film the process for a documentary. They had been told he had at least six months to live, his son has said.

Ambrosia was well-known in Holy City music circles before he fled to the Netherlands to escape prosecution in January 2004 while under investigation for his role in a drug-distribution ring that involved local attorneys and others. He was accused of purchasing a half-kilo of cocaine from a co-defendant.

Authorities finally nabbed him in July 2006, but Ambrosia spent two years in a Dutch prison before he was returned to South Carolina to face prosecution. He pleaded guilty in 2009 to a cocaine-trafficking charge.