Jack Abramoff Reports to Md. Prison

The Associated Press
Wednesday, November 15, 2006; 4:36 PM

CUMBERLAND, Md. -- Hours before entering federal prison Wednesday, lobbyist Jack Abramoff sent friends an e-mail lamenting "this nightmare" political scandal and predicting things were about to get worse _ but still looking optimistically to the future.

Abramoff, who parlayed campaign donations and expensive gifts into political influence from Congress to the White House, reported to a Maryland prison where he will earn no more than 40 cents an hour for assigned jobs.

Shortly before dawn, he sent an e-mail to friends thanking them for standing by him. He then set out for prison, leaving behind a city shaken by his scandal. A congressman has admitted corruption, a Bush administration official was convicted of lying, Republicans were driven from office and several aides have pleaded guilty.

"This nightmare has gone on for almost three years so far and I expect we are not even half way through," Abramoff wrote.

He will serve a six-year sentence for a fraudulent Florida casino deal. He is awaiting sentencing in a Capitol Hill public corruption case in which he also is the star witness.

"Unfortunately, things are going to get worse (starting today no doubt) before they get better, but I am confident that ultimately the turmoil will subside and we will have our lives back," Abramoff wrote in his e-mail.

The message, described by Abramoff as "my last e-mail for a while," was provided to The Associated Press by one his correspondents, who asked to remain anonymous.

Abramoff, inmate No. 27593-112, was delivered to prison out of sight of reporters and camera crews. He will be held at a 334-bed, minimum-security prison camp.

From prison, Abramoff is to continue cooperating with the Justice Department, helping explain how he manipulated government decisions and who else was involved. The case has already led to the conviction of former Bush administration official David Safavian and guilty pleas from former Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, and several congressional aides.

Like all federal prisoners, Abramoff will be required to have a prison job. Unlike his previous work, which involved chartering jets for exotic golf excursions and facilitating huge campaign donations, he will make between 12 and 40 cents an hour. New inmates typically start in lower-paying food service jobs and move up to more desirable jobs, said Stephen Finger, the prison's executive assistant.

The all-male prison camp, which is surrounded by Appalachian Mountain ridges, consists of two-story cinderblock dormitories. Abramoff will share a dorm with five inmates, many of whom are drug offenders, Finger said.

Wake-up call is 6 a.m., and prisoners work 7 1/2 hours, five days a week. Free time can mean reading in the prison library, working out in the gym or watching television in a common room. Sometimes, the staff plays G-rated movies, Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Traci Billingsley said.

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