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Black's supporters plead for his release

CHARLOTTE, N.C., June 22 (UPI) -- Jailed former North Carolina House Speaker Jim Black should be moved to a prison closer to home or have his sentence commuted, supporters say.

They say Black, 74, should be allowed to tend to his ailing wife, who suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's Disease, The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer reported Monday.

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Interim North Carolina State University Chancellor Jim Woodward and several state legislators are among the 150 people who have written to federal officials on behalf of Black, a Democrat, who has been imprisoned since 2007 in Lewisburg, Pa., after being convicted of corruption, the newspaper said, noting his sentence is set to expire in 2012.

"There needs to be some compassion and some consideration … where a family member is suffering from ALS," Mayor Lee Myers of Black's hometown of Matthews, N.C., wrote, while Republican state Sen. Bob Rucho, also of Matthews, added that Black's wife "is in need of help and he's not there to help her."

Joe Sinsheimer, a consultant whose research helped lead to Black's downfall, told the newspaper, however, "Jim Black wants our compassion today, but all we ever wanted from him was honest government."

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