Local Politics

Black's attorneys hope for commuted sentence

Posted June 10, 2009

— Attorneys for former House Speaker Jim Black say he's served enough time for a political corruption conviction.

Black, 74, is serving a 63-month sentence at a federal prison camp in Lewisburg, Pa., following his 2007 guilty plea to charges he accepted illegal campaign contributions from chiropractors in exchange for supporting legislation favorable to the industry.

Whit Powell, Jim Black's attorney Web only: Attorney says Black has paid for crimes

His attorneys have asked President Barack Obama to commute his sentence or at least move him closer to his home in Matthews. His health is poor, and his wife, Betty, suffers from Lou Gehrig's disease, attorney Whit Powell said.

"We're not asking that he be pardoned. Dr. Black doesn't come into this saying, 'I'm a victim.' It's not that situation at all," Powell said.

He noted that Black has served two years of the sentence, has paid more than $1 million in fines and is incarcerated more than 500 miles from home.

"He's paid a heavy, heavy sentence, and we're looking for the president and the Bureau of Prisons to look at all of the 74 years of his life and not just the time that led to his incarceration," Powell said.

Friends and colleagues – Black formerly worked as an optometrist – have written letters of support for shortening the prison sentence or moving Black to a federal prison in the Carolinas.

"We've been inundated with letters from all over the state," Powell said.

The letter-writers acknowledge Black's crimes but say there's much more to his life, he said.

Black knows he has critics who don't want an early release, but Powell said he hopes even the toughest critics can forgive.

There's no time frame for when Obama or federal prison officials might act on the request.

Black also pleaded guilty to state bribery and obstruction of justice charges. The first charge stemmed from payments to a former Republican lawmaker who switched parties to help Black retain power in a divided House in 2003. The second charge stemmed from efforts to get chiropractors to temper any statements to federal and state investigators.

The prison sentences on the state charges ran at the same time as Black's federal sentence and have been completed.


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  • nbforrest Jun 12, 2009

    I think he should be shot and his family thrown in the street. This would thin out scumbag politicians. These people are what you scape off of the bottom of a trash can. They sell their souls too the devil and want our praise.

  • Iworkforaliving Jun 12, 2009

    They can hope in one hand and.....you get the idea.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Jun 11, 2009

    "I agree with you more than anyone, but having had a child who had poor vision that I wasn't aware of early enough, I don't have a problem with children being required to have eye exams before entering school. - itsmyownopinion"

    I'm okay with the requirement if it's done to benefit the children. In Jim Black's case, it was done solely to benefit him and his peers. Providing a benefit to the children was an afterthought once the media started asking questions about the bill.

  • itsmyownopinion Jun 11, 2009

    Apex man said: "I belive that he has paid the price for his crime. He lost his reputation and hos freedom. It may have only been for a few years, but he has paid a heavy price. The legislation that he proposed many people who use chiropractors actually wanted. The people who were against chiropractic care was the insurance companies and the drug companies. One so they would not have to pay for care and the other so they would not have to worry about competition. I have more of a problem with him trying to get legislation to require eye exams of children before they started school as that was a benefit for him directly as an optomotrist."

    I agree with you more than anyone, but having had a child who had poor vision that I wasn't aware of early enough, I don't have a problem with children being required to have eye exams before entering school.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Jun 11, 2009

    He should be forced to serve his entire sentence to send a message to fellow Democrats who think about engaging in illegal criminal activity including Mary and Mike Easley and the group that has resigned at NCSU over Mary's questionable hiring and promotion.

  • I like everybody Jun 11, 2009

    I'm not a fan nor a foe of Jim Black. He's 74, he's spent 2 years in prison, he's paid a million dollar fine, he sick as is his wife. I doubt you could punish him any more than he has already punished himself. Having said that, i say work something out. Not let him go, but work something out.

  • horseonthefly Jun 11, 2009

    He's gotta stay a little longer or Mike's seat might get cold!

    While I think he should do his time, perhaps they could broker a deal for time off his sentence in exchange for some services. I don't agree, in any situation, with letting anyone off scott free. Maybe give (free to them, not to him) eye exams and glasses to (a large number of) children who don't have health insurance. Why waste even more of our tax dollars (and a cell that could house someone posing a danger to our lives instead of our money) feeding and caring for him in jail?

  • Dalphine Jun 11, 2009

    Yes, Mr. Black should serve all of his sentence but what is wrong with him being closer to home since his wife is ill? Not in his back yard. If you do the crime, you do the time and yes he is doing the time. How would you feel if this was your family member? And please be truthful.

  • news4u Jun 11, 2009

    He's singin' like a canary in his cell trying to cut his time - probably tipped the N&O to the Easley Scandal.

    Anybody connected to the Lottery warrants scrutiny.

  • prodigalrn Jun 11, 2009

    I hope he serves his entire sentence, to do less sends a signal that there are two types of justice, one for the rich, connected people, and another for those of us in the regular category. Jim Black was the poster-child for all that is wrong in politics. Keeping him for his entire sentence would send a signal that we are serious about white-collar crimes. Besides, didn't Meg Scott-Phipps serve her entire prison term? I thought she did, why is Jim Black any better than her?