Now bunking across the river in the Edgefield Federal Correctional Institution, Inmate No. 56447-018 - known around here as Merle Temple - has begun serving his eight-year sentence for wire fraud and conspiracy.
People often ask: "If he was sentenced to 97 months in prison, how much time will he actually serve?" It's a natural question: We're all accustomed to state prisoners getting out early.
For example, Nebula McNeely, of Augusta, is one of two women scheduled for trial Monday for the shoplifting and police chase that led to the vehicle crash deaths of three people in Martinez in June.
When that fatal crash occurred, Valerie Rowell's story told us that McNeely "was released May 11 after serving slightly more than two years of an eight-year sentence for shoplifting."
Unlike serial criminal McNeely, one-time criminal Temple won't be as lucky: His eight-year sentence came in federal court, so he'll serve eight years.
What's ironic, though, is a line in a note Temple sent to friends before he was locked up: "I pray that the new Congress proceeds to restore parole to the federal system."
That "new Congress" in which he is placing divine hope is the just-elected Democratic majority. But hang on: Temple has been a life-long Republican, including working on Ronald Reagan's presidential campaign in Mississippi.
More recently, Temple and co-conspirator Linda Schrenko were devoted volunteers at Columbia County Republican Party headquarters during the 2004 elections before the two were indicted.
So the rock-ribbed Republican is now praying for leniency - from the Democrats? Isn't this the same thing as an atheist turning religious in a foxhole?
He's no Borat
We'll call it "Bobby: Cultural Learnings of Georgia For Make Benefit Glorious County of Columbia."
Columbia County Associate Magistrate Bobby Christine, a major in the Georgia National Guard who served two tours in Iraq, has been in the Republic of Georgia for about a week teaching classes on legal procedures.
He sent a couple of short notes about his adventures. Here are some excerpts:
"Greetings from the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. I won't write very much as it is hard to get computer access where I am, but suffice it to say that ... it is cold!
"If you didn't hate the old Soviet Communists, you need to come here and see what 70 years of their rule did to what was apparently a beautiful country before they invaded. Gorgeous old world buildings falling into disrepair surrounded by poverty and the ugliest architecture imaginable (even uglier than the corner of Belair and Columbia roads).
"The main road from the airport to the center of the city of Tbilisi is named 'George Bush Highway' (these guys really want into NATO).
"I am encountering people everywhere enamored with the United States. I walked past a 'Blues Brothers' restaurant where they play blues music and have pictures of American blues greats (like John Hooker and B.B. King) on the walls.
"They so want to experience freedom (and free markets). They are bravely continuing to struggle with breaking free of the old Communist/command economy. For 15 years they have struggled mightily with the transition.
"Today at the Ministry of Defense I met some very real patriots, men and women who looked the Russian bear in the eye and stood firm in order to be free. They are the stuff of which legends are made and from which nations are born. I pray my generation produces some of their caliber, lest we forget what our own framers and founders went through."
Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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