Local Politics

Former Black Ally Sentenced to 4 Years in Prison

Posted April 27, 2007

Map Marker  Find News Near Me

— A tearfully repentant Michael Decker was sentenced to four years in prison Friday for illegally accepting $50,000 in campaign donations and cash in a political corruption investigation that toppled former House Speaker Jim Black.

The former state representative, whose two-decade legislative career ended in the backlash of his affiliation with Black, apologized for what U.S. District Judge James C. Dever III called "an epic betrayal" of the state's citizens and government.

"No amount of sorrow erases the actions that you take," Decker said in a choked voice as his wife, seated behind him, dabbed at her eyes with a tissue.

His lawyer and even federal prosecutors asked Dever for leniency, saying Decker's cooperation was crucial in breaking the case against Black, who awaits sentencing on state and federal corruption charges.

But the judge focused on Decker's crime, saying he and Black betrayed the constitutions they swore to protect and the citizens they were elected to represent.

Their conspiracy tarnished the reputations of lawmakers past, present and future and "provides venom for the false notion that all politicians are corrupt. They are not," Dever said.

Decker, who had faced up to five years in prison, will remain free for at least another month and a half in case his testimony is needed when Black is sentenced in state and federal court.

He was also fined $50,000 and must spend two years on supervised release after his prison term ends.

Decker, 62, pleaded guilty to conspiracy in August, admitting he solicited and accepted money to support Black for House speaker in early 2003. Decker, a Republican from Walkertown, switched to the Democratic Party in a move that ultimately helped Black, D-Mecklenburg, win re-election as co-speaker.

Decker switched back to the GOP in the fall of 2003, but was soundly defeated in the primary when he sought re-election in 2004.

In an interview with authorities in June 2005, Decker denied that Black offered him anything to switch parties. But nine months later, he said he met Black at a Salisbury restaurant in late 2002 and told Black he would support him in return for $50,000. Black agreed, according to Decker, who said he received $38,000 in campaign checks and $12,000 in cash.

Black has denied that the payments were a bribe, and his plea to state charges based on the exchange did not include an admission of guilt. He pleaded guilty in federal court to taking money from chiropractors to support their agenda in the Legislature and is due to be sentenced May 14.

Defense attorney David Freedman insisted that Decker came forward of his own accord in March 2006, after hearing Black testify before the State Board of Elections about campaign finance irregularities.

Decker, who had refused to testify before the board, was conscience-stricken when he heard Black speak falsely, Freedman said, choosing to go to prosecutors even though he was in no imminent danger of being charged.

"He couldn't live with himself, hearing in public this tale being told," Freedman said. "He had the fortitude to come forward and say these things because he felt it was the right thing to do, and he still feels that way today."

Prosecutor John Stuart Bruce agreed that the state and federal governments' case was nowhere near complete at that point, with indications that Decker had taken favors but no evidence of a "quid pro quo" agreement to help Black in return.

Once Decker cooperated, other Black associates fell into line - notably the three chiropractors who finally acknowledged paying Black, Bruce said.

Outside the courtroom, Decker and his lawyer said they won't appeal the sentence.

"I want to pay my penalty and then start my life again," Decker said.

26 Comments

Please with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • shine Apr 29, 2007

    They will send him to a min security facility with a personal garden spot and tennis courts and a theuropeutic swimming pool not to mention the menu. Wonder if he gets to keep all that political package - probably yes - He should have to serve in the state he (mis) represented with the people he misrepresented but more than four years -which will only be 1/8 the sentence or less

  • Tax Man Apr 28, 2007

    Now let's put Black in prison for 25 to life. He is the real problem, he needs a very long sentence in a maximum security prison at hard labor - and still needs to pay the taxpayers of NC back, in full, for all he stole from us. Bunch of crooks that need to die in prison and forfeit all their ill-gotten gains back to the taxpayers. With the money this man stole from taxpayers over his reign, every taxpayer in NC would be about $10,000 richer if refunded.

  • superman Apr 28, 2007

    Who cares whether he is a small crook or a big crook or whether he is a democrate or republican-- He is a dishonest deceitful politican and he needed more than 4 years.

  • Ashen-Shugar Apr 28, 2007

    He should have gotten 40.

  • r-n-r Apr 28, 2007

    He should have had all his property seized and be throne out of the state once out of jail!

  • yruatwit Apr 27, 2007

    The reelection of Jim Black by the voters of his district this past election is very telling. Its a condoning testament by many in Mecklenberg County to the validity of dishonosty, corruption, immorality, manipulation and deceitfulness.

  • bcc Apr 27, 2007

    Looks like some of the posters need year round schooling. In any event, Black is the big fish here and needs to go down BIG TIME. He has totally abused his power for personal interests and obviously has had no interest in what is best for those who elected him. I find it astonishing that he won the election again recently. Who the heck would vote for this clown?

  • Viet Nam Era Vet Apr 27, 2007

    One more Rat bites the dust.....enjoy the all boys club...Ha Ha Ha

  • djofraleigh Apr 27, 2007

    What is a fitting sentence for Black,
    the biggest crook in the crowd?
    He stole the control of the house
    from the Republican Party,
    who haven't had it in a hundred years.

    He by schemes yet not revealed got the lottery,
    having taken money to do so from the industry,
    and dismissing the legislature, calling a vote with opposing members absent, and passed it.

    Basnight and Perdue, who were in on it, Perdue casting the tie breaking vote, may be dirty too. WHO is LOOKING? I don't trust the papers to investigate.

    Meg Scott just got out, but more need to go, like Frank Ballance just did. Who's looking?

    State government is full of corruption. Someone tell.

  • ladyblue Apr 27, 2007

    One crooked politician down"""99 more to go 99 more to go

More...