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ROSTENKOWSKI FINISHES SENTENCE

Former Rep. Dan Rostenkowski signed out of a Salvation Army halfway house shortly after midnight today, dodging reporters as he sped off in a car with two burly men to begin his life of freedom.

Rostenkowski, 69, completed 451 days in the custody of the federal Bureau of Prisons, most at a medium-security prison camp in Oxford, Wis., where he had been until Aug. 19.

The former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee pleaded guilty in April 1996 to two counts of misusing federal funds. He admitted that he had converted office funds for gifts such as Lenox china and armchairs for friends. He also admitted hiring people on the congressional payroll who handled personal jobs such as taking care of his lawn but did little or no official work.

Rostenkowski lost his seat in 1994 to a Republican who became Chicago's first GOP congressman in more than 30 years.

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