Local Politics

Black Associate Pleads to Obstruction Charge

Posted February 6, 2007

— An optometrist linked to questionable fund-raising for former House speaker Jim Black struck a plea deal Tuesday to avoid going to jail .

Michael Scott Edwards of Murfreesboro entered an Alford plea to a charge of obstruction of justice. The plea allows a defendant to acknowledge that the evidence in a case could result in a conviction, but doesn't require him or her to admit guilt.

Edwards was placed on supervised probation for up to two years, or until he completes 100 hours of community service and repays the State Board of Elections $10,000 for its investigation costs.

He was indicted in September on four counts of felony perjury. A Wake County grand jury accused him of failing to file accurate campaign finance reports for the political action committee of the N.C. State Optometric Society.

A jury was seated in the case Tuesday morning, and Edwards agreed to the plea deal shortly after they began hearing testimony.

In February 2006, Edwards refused to testify at State Board of Elections hearings into whether Black, D-Mecklenburg, violated any campaign finance regulations. Others told the board how Edwards allegedly collected checks on which the payee lines were left blank. The checks came from members of the society's political action committee.

Witnesses told the Board of Elections that many of the checks were passed on to Black. They testified that Black directed where the money should go and filled in the payee on some of the checks.

"They all pretty much said that this was the way Scott Edwards had instructed them to make their contributions to the Optometric Society PAC," Kim Strach, the deputy director of the State Board of Elections, testified Tuesday.

Defense attorneys said Edwards thought the practice was legal because it predated his service as treasurer of the political action committee.

Black hasn't been charged with any wrongdoing in the case.

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  • volvoman Feb 7, 2007

    Lawmakers are welcome to play dirty politics?I think people like you are whats WRONG with the system.

  • notadumbredneck Feb 7, 2007

    dfijan - You're absolutely right, and I agree with you. The problem here is that the majority of North Carolinians were in favor of a lottery, yet the bible thumping lawmakers refused to listen. Black like all other politicians, republican and democratic alike, had to work the system to get things done. He was able to get something done that clearly was wanted by the majority, and should be thanked by the NC population, regardless of the method employed. The only thing that suffered was the agenda of the lottery opposition. Lawmakers are welcome to play dirty politics - as long as the citizens of North Carolina benefit in the end, in my opinion.

  • superman Feb 7, 2007

    Dang, all he got was he had to pay back the cost of the investigation and do some community service? It was a waste of time and money to do anything. At the least, he should have gotten a couple months in jail. Except for the community service-- he got off. And he even refused to testify against Black-- offered no cooperation at all.

  • Hevans1012 Feb 7, 2007

    How is everyone around him being tried and he got away scott free?

  • Lefty Feb 7, 2007

    I find it hard to get by that smirk on Edwards' face.

  • OLD PIRATE Feb 7, 2007

    I feel safer when the legislature isn't in town....

  • GIGATT Feb 7, 2007

    mondolab....There were questions about how he passed lottery too. He conveniently hurried the vote when he knew two Republicans would be out of town and wouldn't be able to vote against it. Had those lawmakers been there, we wouldn't have a lottery. Black seems to have a history of deceitful behavior so I wouldn't be tooting his horn about the lottery. Politicians should be held to a higher standard because of the position they hold. Regardless of party, they should not get plea deals, they should be held responsible for their actions and pay up! Maybe if we did that, we would see less corruption in our government.

  • Wildman Feb 7, 2007

    So we should just turn our heads to all the corrupt mess Black helped engender in State government just because he helped bum rush the lottery through the legislature?

    Grow up!

  • notadumbredneck Feb 7, 2007

    Everyone complaining, but nobody realizing that without Black's influence, there would be no state lottery. Lottery opponents (a powerful minority) have focused on him and his associates as a result of his success in passing the lottery bill. I'm sure that most of you that are complaining also play the lottery. I'm sure if you look hard enough you'll find that almost every elected official has violated one rule or another at some point in their campaigns. Let's stop wasting energy trying to get back at people who don't share our views, and focus on passing legislation that benefits the citizens of North Carolina.

  • jmurach Feb 7, 2007

    They can all share a room w/Nifong at our (HOTEL) for loosers