Local Politics

Judge overrules complaints about fine in Black sentencing

Posted July 16, 2009

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— Calling complaints about how a criminal fine was paid "idiotic," a Superior Court judge on Thursday sentenced former House Speaker Jim Black to 11 to 14 months in prison on a bribery charge.

Judge Donald Stephens said the sentence would run at the same time as the 63-month federal sentence for public corruption Black is currently serving.

Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens Judge blasts criticism of fine payment

Stephens withheld sentencing on the charge two years ago until Black paid off a $1 million fine imposed for a separate obstruction of justice charge.

Black paid $500,000 of the fine in cash last summer. Two months ago, Stephens signed off on an agreement to transfer the title of property owned by Black in Matthews, N.C., to settle the balance of the fine.

By law, the $1 million fine goes to the Wake County school district because that is where Black was convicted.

At least one school board member expressed opposition to using a land deal to settle the fine, but Stephens discussed the matter with a school board attorney Thursday morning and decided to proceed with imposing sentence to close out the case.

The judge said he was disappointed with the complaints, noting the school district should be pleased to get an extra $1 million.

"Criticism from those receiving the gift really kind of puts a chilling effect on judges and the courts system that are working really hard for their benefit," Stephens said. "It is not appreciated. I don't even understand it, quite frankly. In my 25 years on the bench, I have never seen anything quite like that."

Black, a 74-year-old Mecklenburg County Democrat, held the top position in the state House for a record eight years before resigning in February 2007 and pleading guilty to state and federal charges.

The bribery charge was linked to a payment to former Forsyth County Rep. Michael Decker $50,000 to switch parties in 2003 so Black could retain a share of the House speakership. The obstruction of justice charge stemmed from encouraging chiropractors to fudge when speaking to authorities about cash they had given him.

The federal corruption charge stemmed from the chiropractors' cash donations.

Black was recently moved from a federal prison in Lewisburg, Pa., to one in Jesup, Ga., to be closer to home. Supporters also are seeking to shorten his sentence because of his and his wife's poor health.

Stephens said Black would have to complete the state sentence even if he is released early from federal prison.

"Even if we get something worked out on the federal side, we will have more to deal with from the state," said Whit Powell, Black's attorney.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • town guy Jul 17, 2009

    Thanks Judge Stephens for cutting Margiotta down a bit.

  • dlb800 Jul 17, 2009

    I wonder how many anti-Blacks here VOTED for him.. even after he was under investigation. That's the best question. I still say I would be embarrassed if I was from Mecklenberg Co because that would mean that I was from a county for of morons and people who want criminals to be our lawmakers. I'm actually embarrassed to say I'm from NC where we elect criminals.

  • twc Jul 16, 2009

    "It figures that they would be complaining. The Wake County school board is the absolute worst! There isn't a competent person among them.

    I have to agree. If they get any worse they'll end up working for the DOT.

  • twc Jul 16, 2009

    Mr. Middle of the Road, I am sure there are many people who would send checks if it depended on their checks to keep an old thief where he belongs. In China the consequences would have been much more severe. Let's hope we don't end up going China's route because of political corruption someday.

  • twc Jul 16, 2009

    "Wow I have less and less faith in people that we put in positions of power. Does this judge really not understand how the school board is upset about losing money yet again when they are hard up for money? I think the gavel may have bounced back to hard and smacked his head.

    Losing money? The money is in effect a gift!! Like the judge said, he could rescind the order and the school board would get NOTHING! I agree with Road-wearier!

  • JimH Jul 16, 2009

    It figures that they would be complaining. The Wake County school board is the absolute worst! There isn't a competent person among them.

  • Mr. Middle of the Road Jul 16, 2009

    Armando, I won't call you names but anyone who labels someone else without knowing one thing about them is a fool. And a I am sure that the Department of Correction would welcome a check from you to help offset teh cost of keeping an old man in custody. Can I count on you to send one? Or are you all talk and no walk?

  • Lady Justice Jul 16, 2009

    "No other citizens of NC will have the chance to do this to pay any taxes or fines." landshark

    This is not necessarily true. In civil cases, property is seized and sold, with the money going to the plaintiff, on a regular basis. Also, wages are garnished - but since Black is not working right now, that cannot happen.

  • Lady Justice Jul 16, 2009

    "The Wake County Clerk of Court (using Wake County Sheriff) should sell this property and give the $500,000 to the public schools (along with the other $500,000 paid in cash). If the amount of the net sale falls short, the Court should require Black to pay it within 30 days. If the Clerk gets more than the $500,000 the balance should go to Black."

    This is the way judgments are handled in civil court, but not criminal court.

  • csswisher Jul 16, 2009

    i say leave him in jail as long as possible. We can do without his likes out on the streets......