Phipps Released From West Virginia Prison

Meg Scott Phipps is a free woman. The former agriculture commissioner pleaded guilty in 2003 to extorting illegal campaign contributions from carnival vendors seeking to influence the awarding of contracts at the State Fair.

Phipps was released from a federal penitentiary in Alderson, West Virginia, around 8 a-m. That word from a prison spokesman. She's the last of four people sentenced to time behind bars in the influence-peddling probe to leave prison.

Prosecutors say Phipps and her associates accepted at least 82-thousand dollars 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 pleaded guilty in federal court to five counts of extortion, mail fraud and conspiracy. Her release date had been set for this August, but her husband says she's leaving early for good behavior.