Local Politics

Former Easley aide seeks to delay trial

Posted March 4, 2010

— An ex-aide to former Gov. Mike Easley on Thursday asked that his federal trial on 51 corruption-related charges be delayed until August.

Ruffin Poole was indicted in January on charges of extortion, bribery, racketeering, money laundering and mail fraud. Poole, 38, was Easley's legal counsel and trusted adviser during the governor's two terms in office.

U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle has set an April 26 trial date, saying it was in the best interest of both sides to bring the case against Poole to a speedy conclusion.

Poole's lawyer, Joe Zeszotarski, said in his request for an August trial that he needs to review almost 37,000 pages of documents that prosecutors have turned over to him. He said he will have to review even more material from coastal developers and Easley supporters Lanny Wilson, Gary Allen and Randy Allen.

The indictment notes that Poole became known among Easley's top contributors as "Little Governor" because he was the person tasked with resolving any problems donors faced with state regulators and with lining up appointments for them to serve on state boards and commissions.

In exchange for his work, the donors gave Poole gifts like free concert tickets and trips, according to the indictment. One paid for Poole's bachelor party in New Orleans, and another bought $600 in liquor for his wedding.

Poole also was allowed to invest in coastal real estate developments at the same time as he was working to secure permits for those projects from state regulators, according to the indictment.

The indictment alleges Poole never reported any of the gifts on his annual financial disclosure forms to the state Ethics Commission and used his family's construction firm to handle money he received through the real estate investments.

The grand jury has in recent months been investigating Easley's dealings with friends and contributors while in office, but Easley wasn't named in the indictment.

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