Local Politics

Defense: Wright Ethics Hearing 'Jim Crow Proceeding'

Posted March 3, 2008

— The Legislative Ethics Panel considering ethical misconduct allegations against state Rep. Thomas Wright is racially biased, Wright's attorney argued Monday.

Attorney Douglas Harris made the claim on the first day of hearings into allegations that Wright mishandled more than $350,000 in campaign contributions, loans and charitable donations.

Wright, an eight-term Democrat from Wilmington, is black. Harris argued that his hearing was being handled differently than a hearing last year against state Rep. Pryor Gibson, a white lawmaker from Anson County.

That allegation, which involved a procedural matter over the filing of a bill, was dismissed.

"What we have here is a white man being treated one way and a black man being treated another," Harris said, calling the hearing "a Jim Crow proceeding."

After some tense exchanges with Harris, Committee Chairman Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, allowed the hearing to go forward but said he would consider Harris' motion if it were put in writing.

The ethics panel in January found probably cause to proceed against Wright on eight allegations of misconduct related to the following:

  • $185,000 in campaign donations authorities said were not 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

"Thomas Wright engaged in a pattern of improper, unethical, and criminal conduct," Deputy Attorney General Bill Hart said as he presented evidence against Wright.

Torlen Wade, a former state Department of Health and Human Services program director, testified that, under pressure from Wright, he wrote a bogus letter in 2002 to help Wright obtain a $150,000 loan for his nonprofit. Wade said he promised in the letter that state money was committed for a museum Wright wanted to establish when it wasn't.

"I thought it was no foul, no harm. No harm, no foul," Wade said.

The committee decided Monday to delay moving forward on one allegation involving a $9,910 loan Wright received from a credit union for his nonprofit. Lawmakers said they wanted more information on the allegation.

The ethics committee could recommend that the full House vote to censure or expel Wright. The General Assembly hasn't removed a lawmaker since the 1880s.

Wright has refused to resign, saying voters should determine if he remains in office. Last week, he filed for re-election.

He also has been indicted on five counts of obtaining property by false pretense and one count of obstruction of justice in connection with the campaign contributions, loans and charitable money. His trial was scheduled to start Monday, but a judge last week delayed the case to give Harris more time to prepare a defense.


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  • Adelinthe Mar 4, 2008

    This guy's attorney is as disillusioned as he is for only the insane would compare "a procedural matter over the filing of a bill" with stealing or misappropriating hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    Praying this guy hits the road, straight to prison.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • Mmaker52 Mar 4, 2008

    Was wondering how long it would be before the race card was pulled

  • sweetsea Mar 4, 2008

    Democrats do not police their own crooks via the election process like republicans do. Decker tried running again and was trounced. If Duke Cunningham or Coy Privette even ran again in a republican primary the result would be the same. On the other hand look at Alycee Hastings, Charles Diggs, William Jefferson, Ted Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Gerry Studds et al., all were all reelected despite committing felonies or acts of gross immorality. This defines the difference in the parties. Thomas Wright will be reelected if he runs because the democrats have no standards of decency to which they hold their politicians accountable. Dan Crane was a popular republican congressman but his dalliance with a young female intern got him bounced by his fellow republicans in a primary. Bill Clintons popularity went up with democrats after his affair with a young female intern. Anything goes with the democrats. Just watch the election results if Wright can keep his name on the ballot.

  • doodad Mar 4, 2008

    I despise people who commit crimes and cry racism to avoid punishment.

  • Doctor Dataclerk Mar 4, 2008

    Wright and his lawyer make me sick. You were caught stealing and plundering and now you try to make it go away by race baiting. But time is ticking for you and you'll soon have a cozy new apartment, for free! You ought to love that.

  • whatusay Mar 3, 2008

    I think Wright and his lawyer is grasping at straws. They know they are up the creek without a paddle and they can not proceed on the facts, so they are trying to use the race card as their defense. Hopefully the elected officials of the State of NC will decide his future based on the facts and not in fear of a racial defense.

  • ccacrabbitdog Mar 3, 2008

    he needs to go and so do some more. there r a lot more corrupt people up there.

  • ridgerunner Mar 3, 2008

    He is being treated as fairly as Jim Black, Meg Scott Phipps, and Mike Decker. They did wrong, he has done wrong, now he needs to join them in prison. And the race riots of 1898 was to remove a corrupt government still in power from "reconstruction" after the civil war, according to some "old timers" I met years ago while living in Wilmington.

  • whatusay Mar 3, 2008

    Wrong is wrong, corrupt is corrupt, a thief is a thief. Black or white if you steal from honest taxpayers you are a thief and you are corrupt. No kind of black discrimination, or white discrimination will make the facts any different. If a white man got away with something in the past it still does not provide a defence for "dishonest Wright". You can not let Wright's charges be dismissed just because something that happened in the past was not prosecuted. Come on NC Representatives...have a backbone and do the right thing. Don't hide behind the apron of fear or stupidity. If he is guilty expell him. Say he can never hold public office again, once he gets out of prison.

  • colliedave Mar 3, 2008

    Wright's playing of the "race card" does grave injustice to those who suffered great injustice b/c of their race. It is a power issue and he doesn't want to loose what he thinks is his. The sad thing is there are individuals who will vote for him on account of his race alone.