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Oklahoma native Reba McEntire sings praises of former classmate

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It still pays to grow up in Southeastern Oklahoma. That little red-haired girl sitting next to you in grade school could someday grow up and help keep you out of jail, or at least shorten your criminal sentence.

One of the biggest stars ever to sleep in Little Dixie came to the aid of a longtime friend, singing praises to a judge who gazed upon the singer's words and went, "Ah-shucks."

Businessman Steve Phipps faced a lengthy jail sentence for his role in a kickback scheme that diverted millions of taxpayer dollars to several of his businesses. Phipps pled guilty in 2007 on a federal conspiracy charge, admitting he paid certain legislators who then helped steer tax dollars to Phipps' companies. Phipps would later become the key witness for the fed against those lawmakers and other officials.

In an attempt to sweet-talk U.S. District Judge Ronald White into giving Phipps a light sentence, country music diva Reba McEntire wrote Judge White a letter singing the praises of her longtime friend Phipps. Reba talked about how she and Phipps went to school together and how Phipps helped many southeasterners with medical problems.

"I know that Steve has helped many of these families with support and monetary assistance," country music's queen wrote, according to an AP story.

No word on if that monetary assistance just happened to be taxpayer-funded.

But Reba didn't stop there, according to The Oklahoman.

"Steve Phipps will always be my friend. Steve has helped so many others while not expecting any benefit or favors in return."

Unless, perhaps, if you are a legislator, then a return on investment might be expected.

But Reba seems to have had an impact. The judge sentenced Phipps to one year and one day in federal prison. Not bad considering Phipps received more than $2 million.

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