Local Politics

State Lawmaker Indicted on 6 Charges

Posted December 10, 2007

— State Rep. Thomas Wright was indicted Monday in connection with unreported campaign donations and two loans, authorities said.

Wright, D-New Hanover, was indicted on five counts of obtaining property by false pretense and one count of obstruction of justice – all felonies.

Wright couldn't be reached for comment. He previously said he had no intention of stepping down, saying voters should decide whether he remains in office.

"These are important matters, and we felt it warranted investigation by the (State) Board of Elections and by the (State Bureau of Investigation), and the grand jury has now acted on it," Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said.

The Board of Elections initiated an investigation into Wright's campaign finances following an allegation a year ago by political consultant-turned-watchdog Joe Sinsheimer that Wright and his campaign committee delayed the disclosure of $41,000 in campaign donations.

Wright, a former ally of disgraced former House Speaker Jim Black, declined to testify before the board in May, when investigators also questioned more than $119,000 that political committees reported giving to Wright's campaign since 1992 but that the campaign never identified as receiving.

The obstruction of justice charge handed up Monday by a Wake County grand jury is in connection with $185,000 in unreported campaign donations.

"I think there's been a culture of entitlement that has developed on Jones Street with the General Assembly," Sinsheimer said.

Three charges of obtaining property by false pretense stem from checks that were made out to New Hanover Community Health Foundation, which Wright directs, but that wound up in his personal bank account in 2003 and 2004. The checks, which totaled $8,900, were from AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, Anheuser-Busch and AT&T.

"I think it's a new day in North Carolina. Basically our legal system is saying enough is enough, we've had enough," Sinsheimer said. "It's embarrassing that Thomas Wright is still a member of the General Assembly. They've had a year to kick him out."

House Speaker Joe Hackney issued a statement Monday afternoon noting state lawmakers adopted ethics reforms in the last session.

"It's disappointing any time an elected official is accused of wrongdoing, but the allegations in this case date back several years and don't reflect on the many good things we did this past legislative session," Hackney said in the statement. "I look forward to continuing to move ahead and doing the people's business in a way that will make them proud."

A fourth charge of obtaining property by false pretenses is in connection with Wright's purchase of a building for a museum dedicated to the 1898 Wilmington Race Riot.

Torlen Wade, the director of the state Office of Rural Health Development, wrote a letter in March 2002 to help Wright's foundation obtain a loan to buy the building. The letter suggested $150,000 in state financing would back the museum project, though both Wade and Wright knew that wasn't the case.

Wade had regular contact with Wright, who served as chairman of a House health committee, and he told state elections board investigators that he later regretted writing the letter.

The fifth charge of final obtaining property by false pretenses was related to a 2001 loan for $9,980 that Wright took out in the foundation's name but that authorities said never got to the nonprofit organization.

"The SBI investigation determined that Representative Thomas Wright took money belonging to The Community's Health Foundation Inc. on multiple occasions," SBI Special Agent Rufus Williams said in an affidavit to support a search warrant for Wright's bank records in connection with the 2001 loan.


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  • mvnull Dec 11, 2007

    "democrats are corrupt" Agreed.

    So are Republicans, they just don't have the power in NC to cash in. Look at what the Republicans in Washington did with their shot to change America for the better. Even Rove admits it was corruption that cost Republicans the election.

  • lock Dec 11, 2007

    I am getting so fed up with our "politicians". You know that this is just the tip of the iceberg. These are just the charges that the DA probably feels he can prove, how much more is out there? How many other legislators have their hands in the till? And my taxes just keep going up. When it comes time to vote, our choices are a crook or a crook, not much of a choice.

  • ltbarkley Dec 11, 2007

    another Jim Black lackey.. Seems like everyone that had dealings with Black was just as corrupt.

    You screw with voters money, you need to go to jail for a very very long time. I am TIRED of hearing of corrupt politicians, the ones that aren't need to grow a backbone and GO AFTER THE ONES THAT ARE.

  • gvmntcheese Dec 11, 2007

    Only support those who follow the Constitution and its fundamentals and you will not have issues like this.

  • HJRVS Dec 11, 2007

    Paul Revere "This story will disapper by Tuesday afternoon. Afterall, it's a democrat breaking the law, so the media won't harp on it too much."

    Didn't even make it to Tue afternoon. The story was taken off the front page before the AM news!

  • GWALLY Dec 11, 2007

    Another FINE example of the abuse of "non profit" (state funded with YOUR stolen tax money)org's. If WRAL really wants to do an investigative story on something that matters, just look into the tax money stolen all in the name of "NON PROFIT'S. State and federal funded RIP Offs!!!
    Your tax dollars were stolen here.....and used for this man's (and his family) private use!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Should be thrown under the jail!!!

  • jackadoo Dec 11, 2007

    wral is letting us swing for the fence? wow. Let's not abuse it. Hackney and his cronies need to boot this bum, sooner not later. This is not an isolated crime, or poor judgement, but 6 different felonies. I call that a pattern. Regardless, I am confident his mamma thinks he's innocent.

  • TheWB Dec 11, 2007

    "Is he related to Ex Mayor of Wash. D.C., Marion Berry???"

    And, in the William Jefferson's (D)Louisianna, School of Corruption?

  • farcry Dec 11, 2007

    I love how the Republicans take this opportunity to make it a Dem-Rep issue. Doesn't matter what side of the aisle they're on, so many of them are crooks and cheats. They give in to special interests - whether it's a chemical company that wants to keep dirtying the air and water we need or it's PETA trying to get some inane law passed, money talks for these folks and corruption knows no political boundaries.
    Remember you Republican ninnies, when you point your finger at someone else, there are 3 more pointing back at you. Make sure your own house is in order first.

  • 68_polara Dec 11, 2007

    "This clown would make a perfect running mate for Fred Thompson."