Politics & Government

Let me go or put me near home, Black asks

Former N.C. House Speaker Jim Black has asked President Barack Obama to set him free or put him a little closer to home.

Black's lawyer told WRAL-TV in Raleigh that he has asked Obama to commute Black's federal prison sentence or allow him to finish the rest of it at a prison closer to his home in Mecklenburg County. Black, a Democrat, is serving a five-year sentence on a corruption charge at a prison in Lewisburg, Pa.

The lawyer, Whit Powell of Raleigh, said Black is in poor health and that his wife suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, known as Lou Gehrig's disease, and that her health is poor.

Black, 74, pleaded guilty in 2007 to taking cash payoffs from chiropractors in exchange for pushing legislation that aided their profession. He also pleaded guilty to state corruption-related charges.

Black was not asking for a pardon, Powell said, adding that Black has paid more than $1 million in fines and served two years.

"He's paid a heavy, heavy sentence," Powell told the television station, "and we're looking for the president and the Bureau of Prisons to look at all of the 74 years of his life and not just the time that led to his incarceration."

Powell did not return a message left by The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer on Thursday.

A White House spokeswoman did not respond to an e-mail inquiry Thursday.

Powell said colleagues and friends have written letters of support for commuting Black's sentence or moving him.