Alderson, WV -- Former North Carolina agriculture commissioner Meg Scott Phipps was released from a federal prison Monday after serving more than three years on extortion charges.
Phipps, whose father and grandfather served as North Carolina governors, was released from a prison camp for women in Alderson, W.Va., around 8 a.m., a prison spokesman said. Phipps, a Democrat, pleaded guilty in 2003 to extorting illegal campaign contributions.
"I'm so excited because it's hard to believe that this day has come. It's been over three years," Phipps told WRAL-TV in Raleigh shortly after her release. "I wake up this morning in my prison bunk bed and tonight, I'll be in my bed at home."
Her attorney, Allen Hill, referred questions Monday to Phipps. Her teenage son, Rob, told The Associated Press his family wouldn't speak publicly for a few days as his mother settles back into home life.
The guilty pleas of Phipps and six others to federal charges originated from her successful 2000 campaign for commissioner. Phipps was accused of extorting contributions from carnival vendors seeking to influence the awarding of contracts at North Carolina state fairs.
Prosecutors said Phipps and her associates accepted at least $82,500 in illegal cash payments to pay down campaign debt, while Phipps converted some of the money to her personal use. Some donations came from a company that later won the midway contract for the North Carolina State Fair.
Phipps resigned as commissioner in 2003, and she was sentenced the following year.
Four people were sentenced to time behind bars in the influence-peddling probe, though Phipps received the longest active sentence of four years and was the last of them to leave prison. She will wear an ankle bracelet through the summer while on house arrest and be permitted to leave for work at her local church.
Phipps "has paid her debt to society, and we look forward to her returning to her community as a productive citizen," said George Holding, U.S. Attorney for eastern North Carolina, whose office prosecuted Phipps.
Phipps' grandfather, Kerr Scott, was agriculture commissioner for a dozen years before being elected governor in 1948, and U.S. senator in 1954. Her father, Bob Scott, served as governor from 1969 to 1973.