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Saturday, February 16, 2008                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor reports to prison for tax evasion

The Rev. Gregory Clarke, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church, checked in to a federal penitentiary in Atlanta around 8 a.m. Friday morning to begin serving a 21-month sentence for tax fraud.

Clarke walked into prison wearing a Crimson Tide jacket and baseball cap. He made the journey on a chartered bus, accompanied by about 50 church members. Other church members and supporters followed in vehicles.

A federal jury convicted Clarke in July 2007 on charges he filed false income tax returns for 2000, 2001 and 2002. At trial prosecutors said Clarke underreported $110,000 in earned income and schemes to deceive the government about the money.

Clarke has said he was singled out because of his friendship with former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, who is serving a prison sentence after he was convicted on seven corruption-related counts by a federal jury in Montgomery in 2006.

Here is a video taken before the bus departed for Atlanta. Clarke tells reporters and supporters that he is ready to report and has the items he needs for a "camping trip."

Rev. Gregory Clarke talks to reporters before departing for prison

Here he arrives in the parking lot outside the prison and hugs friends and parishioners, some of them tearful.

Rev. Gregory Clarke says goodbye to parishioners as he checks into Atlanta prison