Local Politics

Ex-Easley aide pleads not guilty to corruption charges

Posted April 5, 2010

— Ruffin Poole, who was once a top aide to former Gov. Mike Easley, pleaded not guilty Monday to 57 corruption charges, but a federal judge say he doesn't plan on giving Poole another four months to prepare for trial.

A federal grand jury indicted Poole in January on 51 charges, including extortion, bribery and money laundering. Last month, the grand jury issued a new indictment, adding three counts of tax evasion and three counts of using e-mails to discuss using his influence in exchange for monetary benefit.

Ruffin Poole and wife walk to courthouse Feds push for quick trial against Poole

Poole, 38, was Easley's legal counsel and trusted adviser during the governor's two terms in office.

The indictments noted 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 indictments allege 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.

U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle has set a tentative trial date for April 26. Poole wants the trial delayed until August – his lawyer said he has to review about 50,000 pages of documents prosecutors have compiled in the case – but the government wants the trial held this spring.

Boyle said Monday that he would consider delaying the trial by weeks, but not months.

"The government is going full-speed ahead, and I think it's moving at a relatively fast pace, all things considered," said Kieran Shanahan, a Raleigh lawyer and former federal prosecutor. "We're probably running up against statute of limitations."

The grand jury has been investigating for more than a year Easley's dealings with friends and contributors while in office.

Shanahan said it's clear that Poole is a stepping stone for the government to build a case against Easley.

"You need a live body. Ruffin Poole is the live body to testify," he said. "He's a critical component. He's worth holding out for."

Convicting Poole could be important in pursuing Easley, Shanahan said, especially if Poole isn't inclined to cooperate with federal prosecutors.

"After a jury verdict, by the way, Ruffin Poole would lose his privilege against self-incrimination. They can call him as a witness, in any event," he said.


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  • bombayrunner Apr 6, 2010

    While I certainly believe in ones right to a fair trial. Just the good ole' boy appearance disturbs me. No one is above the law and I hope this guy gets a slammer of a sentence seated right next to Jim Black!

  • Womble_Fred Apr 6, 2010

    I strongly suspect that the requested delay is merely to give them time to negotiate. They know they're dead in the water and the feds know they know. At this point they are doing all they can to hold out for the best deal that Poole can get. Doubtful that any deal will exclude his ratting on Easley. Pretty clear he is among the final targets, and frankly, Perdue is just as dirty as good ole boy Mike.

  • chfdcpt Apr 5, 2010

    mrr03, the way the feds work, they will not make a deal with you nor reduce the charges. They will go to the initial trial with everything they have. If you are found guilty, then they will ask you to cooperate in return for a reduced sentence. That is one of the reasons it takes so long in federal court between being found guilty and the final conviction hearing. As long as he is cooperating with the feds, they will make sure he does not spend the full time in the federal pen.

  • dws Apr 5, 2010

    this will be a sweet one to watch when the walls come tumbling down

  • coolwill43 Apr 5, 2010

    lock him up

  • demo7691 Apr 5, 2010

    He should go on and get the Cell ready for his future roomie. Maybe Bev and the other one will be not far from it

  • 5Rs Apr 5, 2010

    What is the problem? he is JAD - Just Another Democrat politician. Business as usual.

  • Inter Alios Apr 5, 2010

    When I think of top-notch criminal defense lawyers, Zesotarski (sp.?) doesn't come to mind. His hiring appears to be one of a long list of mistakes by Poole, and, unless he changes courses real soon, will be the biggest mistake of his young life, the balance of which could very well be spent behind bars. In most cases, by the time the feds come to get you, they already have you, and the only real question is how long they are going to keep you. His only out is to roll on Easley. Without Poole, they might not be able to get Easley, but they can surely make Poole wish to goodness he had rolled on him.

  • superman Apr 5, 2010

    He is going to meet so many new and old friends. He is going to be able to earn some canteen money. Why do people with money and influence have to be so greedy?

  • Retired07 Apr 5, 2010

    But he is entitled to it--can t you see?