Travel plans called for Jason Pepper to say goodbye to his daughter Tuesday morning at their home in St. Joseph and then begin a long drive with his wife to Florence, Colo., where he was to report Thursday to a minimum-security prison.
"It's rough. I'm having good hours and bad hours," Pepper said the day before he was scheduled to depart.
At the same time, the 29-year-old was philosophical about his return to prison after a federal appeals court ruled that his initial two-year sentence, which ended in 2005, was too short and that he must be resentenced to a longer period of incarceration.
"It's not something that's going to kill me. ... If they're going to make me do it, what choice do I have?" he said.
The News-Gazette reported in early March about Pepper's legal troubles.
A former methamphetamine addict who sold the drug to finance his habit, Pepper was arrested by federal agents in Sioux City, Iowa, where he was living, in October 2003. He pleaded guilty to methamphetamine distribution and was sentenced by U.S. Judge Michael Bennett to two years.
Pepper broke his addiction to meth during his incarceration and said he vowed to make a productive life for himself after his release. Discharged from federal prison in Yankton, S.D., following 21 months in custody, he went back to school, worked and married.
Meanwhile, prosecutors appealed the judge's initial two-year sentence. Finally, after a series of appeals that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and took more than three years, the government won a ruling that Pepper must be resentenced.
Earlier this year, U.S. Judge Linda Reade resentenced Pepper to 65 months of incarceration but allowed him to remain free until contacted by the federal Bureau of Prisons and told where to report. Pepper said he received a phone call two weeks ago telling him he should report on Thursday to the Colorado facility.
It's unclear how long Pepper will be held. He was sentenced to 65 months. But he's already served 21 months and been given good-time credit for another three months. He also participated in an addiction education program at Yankton that entitles inmates to a 12-month reduction in sentence, a discount Pepper never received because of his 2005 release.
So while Pepper is certain not to serve 65 months, the Bureau of Prisons will have to determine how long he will be held.
Whatever it is, Pepper faces a considerable separation from his wife, Hannah, and his child.
Pepper said he's trying to be as positive as he can about the future. Noting that smoking is banned in federal prison, Pepper said he is pleased that "I'm going to get to quit smoking."
"That's one positive. But my list of positives does not outweigh my list of negatives," he said.