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Jackson Jr. turned away after showing up at prison early

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013 9:48 a.m. CDT

WASHINGTON (MCT) — Convicted former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. tried to report Monday to a federal prison in North Carolina but was turned away, a prison spokesman said this morning.

Chris McConnell, executive assistant at Butner Federal Correctional Complex near Durham, declined to specify why Jackson was not allowed to surrender to the prison, but the ex-congressman did appear at Butner days earlier than expected. The sentencing judge had told Jackson to report no earlier than Friday, court documents show.

McConnell said the former lawmaker was turned away during the afternoon hours. He said press accounts in which Rep. G. K. Butterfield, D-N.C., described a paperwork problem being worked out at the prison were "very accurate." Butterfield reportedly accompanied Jackson to the prison.

At the Bureau of Prisons in Washington, spokesman Ed Ross said this morning he could confirm that Jackson was not in bureau custody. He declined to elaborate on what occurred Monday or to say what is expected to happen next.

It was not immediately clear when Jackson would be able to start his 30-month prison sentence. Jackson was sentenced in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia after pleading guilty. Sheldon Snook, the administrative assistant to its chief judge, said today that he reviewed Jackson's court docket and saw no change from a judgment entered in August indicating the former congressman shall surrender "no earlier than Nov. 1, 2013." That is Friday.

The judgment was signed by the sentencing judge, Amy Berman Jackson, who is not related to the former congressman. The judge recommended that Jackson be placed either in a federal prison camp in Montgomery, Ala., or the closest federal prison camp to Washington, D.C., or the low-security portion at Butner's Federal Correctional Complex.

Such recommendations are not binding. The Bureau of Prisons designates where a felon must serve. The confusion over Jackson's whereabouts began Monday when his lawyer's spokeswoman said the ex-congressman had reported to prison.

Bunnie Jackson-Ransom, an Atlanta publicist for Jackson lawyer C.K. Hoffler, said Jackson arrived at the Butner Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina sometime after 2 p.m. Chicago time Monday. But McConnell, contacted late Monday afternoon, denied Jackson was in custody. And Ross cited the "inmate locator" on the prison system's website, which listed Jackson as "not in BOP custody" -- a status that remained as of 7 a.m. today Chicago time.

Jackson's defense lawyers did not respond to Tribune requests for comment.

Jackson, 48, who was convicted of looting his campaign fund of $750,000, has been given an inmate number: 32451-016.

Jackson is expected to join other high-profile felons at Butner. It is home to rogue financier Bernard Madoff; spy Jonathan Pollard; Omar Ahmad Rahman, the "blind sheik" convicted for plotting to blow up New York City landmarks; and Jon Burge, the former Chicago police commander under whose watch African-American suspects were tortured into making false confessions to rape and murder, records show.

A former congressman from California, Republican Randy "Duke" Cunningham, who was convicted of bribery, served time at Butner before his release. And Frank Calabrese Sr., a Chicago mobster responsible for several gangland slayings in the 1970s and '80s, died last Christmas in Butner's Federal Medical Center.

Jackson, the son of civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson, reportedly has depression and bipolar disorder. Jackson Jr. pleaded guilty to stealing $750,000 from his campaign from 2005 to 2012 to pay for vacations, furs, celebrity memorabilia and even two elk heads.

He was ordered to pay $750,000 in restitution. According to a court filing last week, the ex-congressman will pay $200,000 by Friday and then sell his Washington home. By May 15, attorneys will give the judge a report on how much he has paid.

(c)2013 the Chicago Tribune Distributed by MCT Information Services

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