Local Politics

Extent of Corruption Could Be Revealed In Black's State Case

Posted February 19, 2007
Updated February 20, 2007

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— Five days after pleading guilty to a federal corruption charge, former House Speaker Jim Black is expected to appear in state court Tuesday.

Wake County Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens said he has scheduled a special court proceeding at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday at the request of Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby.
  • 11:30 a.m.: Watch hearing LIVE on WRAL.com and WRAL NewsChannel
Willoughby wouldn't confirm that the proceeding involves Black, but various sources told WRAL that a state investigation into political corruption would end up in Wake County court.

A person familiar with the state investigation into Black told the Associated Press that the former House speaker would enter a plea to at least one state charge. Speaking on condition of anonymity because court documents had not yet been filed, the person didn't know the precise criminal charge but said Black would accept an Alford plea, which allows a defendant to acknowledge that the evidence could result in a conviction but doesn't require him to acknowledge guilt.

Black pleaded guilty last Thursday to accepting cash payments from chiropractors between 2000 and 2005 in exchange for backing legislation favorable to the industry. He will be sentenced in May, when he faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The plea resulted from a federal investigation into corruption in the General Assembly. State authorities are conducting a parallel investigation.

Joe Sinsheimer, a longtime legislative watchdog and Black critic, said he hopes a state court hearing will clear up questions left by the federal plea and clarify the extent of the legislative corruption.

The federal court documents didn't name the chiropractors who handed over $25,000 in cash to Black to influence legislation. There also was no mention of Michael Decker, the ex-lawmaker implicated the leader in a party switch payoff that helped keep Black in power four years ago.

"We haven't learned whether or not the cash money that the speaker took was at all connected to the Michael Decker case," Sinsheimer said. "I think what the Michael Decker case has done is given state and federal prosecutors a road map about which special interests were willing to do Speaker Black's bidding."

Chiropractors Fletcher Keith and Steve Willen testified last year during a State Board of Elections hearing into Black's fundraising practices. According to campaign finance reports, both Black supporters also gave money to Decker's campaign right around the same time he switched parties.

It's unclear whether Tuesday's court hearing would involved a possible plea or details on state criminal charges.

Black, who served as House speaker for a record eight years, resigned his legislative seat last Wednesday to comply with a state law that bars felons from holding public office.

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  • Just thinking Feb 20, 2007

    Why did it take so long for the state to bring charges, after the feds brought theirs? What was the NC AG doing all of this time? The Decker deal and other improprieties were reported on for months now.

  • homeimprovement Feb 20, 2007


    I think the problem here is that the Democrats ran on the mantra "Culture of corruption" trying to say that corruption is tied only to Republicans. Good political move for them because it stuck.. people believed it. Alot of that had to do with the way the media painted the "Corruption" picture. They treated Dems with kid gloves and only concentrated on the Republican party. Seems now that Democrats are not as pure as the driven snow as they have portayed themselves. Term limits would be the best way to deal with this problem.

  • hardhammer Feb 20, 2007

    When a rat has been in the barn that long, you know he knows where the cheese is....consider term limits

  • Here kitty kitty Feb 20, 2007

    Live hearing today at 11:30 -- I want to see him led into the courtroom in cuffs!

  • ncnurse Feb 20, 2007

    I hope the crook goes to prison and never gets out.

  • heavye Feb 20, 2007

    All I know is I have worked for the State of North Carolina for 17 long years and still love my job and enjoy going to work everyday, but when I heard the Gov. say basically free college for anybody who wanted it, and all those years I asked for educational assistance from the STATE and was denied, due to lack of FUNDS, it just turned my stomach. Once again, he has kicked the blue collar state employees in the gut. I'm sure along with the free college and free health plan all of our employee benefits will go up, in SMOKE. Unless you are a TEACHER.

  • spiritwarriorwoman Feb 20, 2007

    t -dot- wright530 - "ITS THE MEDIAS JOB TO HOLD THE DEMOCRATS FEET TO THE FIRE NOT JUST THE REPUBLICANS..." It's NOT the media's job. It's the job of the voters. Shame on this politician and his cronies, all part of the good ol' boy network who have done so much damage to US politics over the decades. Follow Will Roger's advise, "Re-elect no one." Praying for the old-fashioned American way, without the good ol' boys. God bless. Rev. RB

  • newport31259 Feb 20, 2007

    "So the question is not whether the party controlling the state government will do everything they can to make this scandal disappear, it is whether or not you'll be smart enough to remember it the next time you vote."

    Does the same logic apply to the national elections, where two Republicans resigned because of corruption? DeLay and Ney? Just wondering if you want to apply the same broad brush when Republicans are guilty or only when it is the Democrats.

    Greed and corruption, unfortunately, are not unique to either party. Black should not have been elected in November given all that was known about him then.

  • twright530 Feb 20, 2007


  • TechRescue Feb 20, 2007

    When asked about Easley's apparent ammnesia about the Black case in his State of the State address, Majority Leader Holliman replied "I think we are ready to move past that". So the question is not whether the party controlling the state government will do everything they can to make this scandal disappear, it is whether or not you'll be smart enough to remember it the next time you vote.