Local Politics

Judge Stymies Wright's Bid to Head Off Ethics Hearing

Posted February 28, 2008

— A judge on Thursday refused to stop a legislative committee from meeting next week to review allegations of misconduct against a Wilmington lawmaker.

State Rep. Thomas Wright, D-New Hanover, faces ethics charges in connection with his handling of more than $350,000 in campaign donations, loans and charitable money.

The Legislative Ethics Committee plans to begin hearings into the allegations Monday. Those could lead to a vote in the General Assembly to censure or expel Wright.

Wright on Wednesday filed a motion to delay the hearing, claiming it could taint potential jurors and hinder his defense in a pending criminal trial.

He was indicted in December on five counts of obtaining property by false pretense and one count of obstruction of justice. The charges stem from:

  • $185,000 in campaign donations authorities said weren't reported
  • allegations that the lawmaker used his position to influence a state official to write a letter to help him obtain a $150,000 loan for a real estate deal in Wilmington
  • accusations that he diverted almost $19,000 in contributions and loans into his personal accounts when they were supposed to go to a nonprofit organization he directs

Wright's criminal trial also was set to begin next week, but a judge on Monday postponed it to give Wright's attorney more time to prepare.

Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway refused to do likewise with the ethics hearing, agreeing with lawyers from the state Attorney General's Office that the ethics allegations need to be resolved.

"There clearly is a strong interest for the people of North Carolina and for the General Assembly itself to have this matter resolved," Special Deputy Attorney General Alec Peters said. "They have a right to have that resolved, to have that taken off the table."

Wright has refused to resign, saying voters should determine if he remains in office. He recently announced plans to run for re-election.

Wright's attorney, Irving Joyner, argued that the lawmaker would suffer "irreparable harm" if the ethics hearing proceeds as scheduled. He dismissed the idea of Wright invoking his constitutional right not to speak at the hearing, saying, "If he is forced to plead the Fifth (Amendment right), it means somehow he is culpable."

Joyner also tried to argue that the General Assembly doesn't have the right to discipline its members, especially since the allegations against Wright weren't connected to his duties as a legislator and occurred several years ago.

"We think it's just crystal clear that, under the law of North Carolina, the General Assembly has the power to discipline its members," Peters replied.


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  • yruatwit Feb 29, 2008

    I'll put my one up against someone else's five that the General Assembly comes up with some reason not to conduct the ethics hearing before the criminal trial. Any takers?

  • colliedave Feb 29, 2008

    What makes this man think he is above the law? Does he really think he is going to make all of this just go away?

    B/C the people voted him into offive. Yes.

  • djofraleigh Feb 29, 2008

    I am impressed by the court. Now the Assemby members will have to find another excuse NOT to proceed. I'm hoping Wright will spill the beans on his associates, the old Jim Black gang.

  • ratherbnnc Feb 29, 2008

    I think he is innocent.

    I think you are living in lala land!!

  • Iquana Feb 28, 2008

    I think he is innocent.

  • ncteacher22 Feb 28, 2008

    Bwa-ha-ha! This was posted almost two hours ago and I'm the only one who commented? I am so proud of all of you! Your apathy ought to speak volumes to Mr.Always Wright!

  • ncteacher22 Feb 28, 2008

    What makes this man think he is above the law? Does he really think he is going to make all of this just go away?