Black due to surrender today

The former state House speaker is scheduled to be sentenced in state court Tuesday

The Charlotte ObserverJuly 30, 2007 

— Jim Black, only six months removed from the powerful speaker's chair in the state House of Representatives, is set to lose his freedom today.

The 72-year-old Democrat has been ordered to surrender to U.S. Marshals in Raleigh by 2 p.m. From then on, he'll be in the custody of the Marshals or the Federal Bureau of Prisons for as long as five years and three months.

U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle recommended that Black serve his sentence at a prison in Butner, about 35 miles north of Raleigh. But federal officials have assigned Black to a prison camp in Lewisburg, Pa., more than 500 miles from his home in Matthews.

Before he heads there, though, he might have a few more nights in North Carolina.

Already sentenced in federal court for taking illegal payments from chiropractors, Black faces sentencing in state court Tuesday for two other corruption charges --bribery and obstruction of justice -- related to another lawmaker's party switch in 2003 to help keep Black in power.

A spokeswoman for the Wake County Sheriff's Office, which runs the county's jail in Raleigh, said Friday the office didn't know whether to expect Black tonight. If he is brought to the jail, he would be treated as if he were any other inmate, she said.

Black's 11th-hour request that he be able to remain free for one more week -- so he could stay out of custody during his state sentencing and travel to Pennsylvania on his own -- had gone unanswered as of late Sunday.

Prosecutors have said it would be logistically difficult for Black to enter federal prison today and appear in state court the next day.

But David Sherlin, a Wake assistant district attorney, said last week that the sentencing is still scheduled: "At this point, our plan is to move forward with it."

Authorities have said they're continuing their investigation of corruption in state government. Black, they have said, is not fully cooperating.

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