Local Politics

Sources: Plea deal expected in Easley campaign investigation

Posted November 22, 2010
Updated November 23, 2010

— Former Gov. Mike Easley is expected to plead guilty Tuesday in a case involving his campaign finances, sources told WRAL News.

A court hearing is set for noon Tuesday in Raleigh.

The plea deal could involve a charge related to obstruction of justice, sources said. Obstruction of justice is a felony offense.

The hearing comes more than a year after the State Board of Elections ordered Easley's campaign to pay $100,000 for dozens of flights the former governor took aboard donors' private planes during the 2000 and 2004 campaigns.

The board also turned its findings over to prosecutors to determine whether to pursue criminal charges.

Rowan County District Attorney Bill Kenerly, who was named to examine the case, said recently that there was a hitch in the investigation, but he declined to elaborate.

Gov. Mike Easley Easley expected to plead guilty, sources say

Karl Knudsen, a Raleigh defense attorney not associated with the case, said Monday that a plea might be Easley’s best move.

“There is a lot to be gained by both sides reaching an agreement that meets everybody’s needs,” he said.

In a plea deal, prosecutors are spared a possible loss at trial, and mounting a defense in court could cost Easley millions of dollars.

“The legal expenses of something like that could bankrupt him,” Knudsen said.

A federal grand jury also has been investigating since early 2009 Easley's dealings with friends and contributors while in office. In addition to the campaign flights, it's believed the grand jury, which operates in secret, has looked at coastal real estate deals and a high-paying job former first lady Mary Easley had at North Carolina State University.

Sources said that the plea deal could end the federal investigation as well.

Potential prison time would be at the discretion of the Superior Court judge handling the case, sources said.

Knudsen said that because the charge is a relatively low-level felony and because Easley has no prior record, “the possibility of him serving any serious prison time is very low.”

He could also face possible punishments, such as fines, restitution, probation or community service and lose his law license, Knudsen said.

A fall from such a high place could be one of the harsher punishments, he added.

“To enter a guilty plea, or a no contest plea, and become a convicted felon – that is a bitter pill to swallow,” Knudsen said.

Ruffin Poole, who once was Easley's top aide, has been the only person charged in the federal probe. He pleaded guilty in May to tax evasion for not reporting income from coastal properties he invested in along with Easley supporters. He is awaiting sentencing in the case.


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  • SMAPAEA Nov 23, 2010

    It makes me sad that the legal system "prices-out" one's ability to have his day in court so to speak. It also makes me sad that officials work the system...course...it makes me sad that so many people work the system too. I never met him, but his wife is a fantastic individual.

  • gharris2 Nov 23, 2010

    Mikey, Needs and deserves to spend time in prison along with his wifey as well.

  • wildpig777 Nov 23, 2010

    LETS SEE-- THE NC DEMOCRATIC PARTY GAVE JIMBO BLACK THE LONG LEAF ORDER OF THE PINE AS HE WAS ON HIS WAY TO JAIL. this is what happens when a state is owned by a single political party for the last 200 yrs.................. aint u just proud to be a democrat in nc? WRAL WILL PROLLY NEVER ALLOW THIS COMMENT TO BE SHOWN.........

  • wildpig777 Nov 23, 2010

    WRAL will exonorate the GOV NOR and prolly give him 100.00 bux for his hardships. i look for WRAL TO CENSOR THIS AS THEY HAVE DONE MANY TIMES BEFORE-- YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO CRITIZE A DEMOCRAT IN NORTH CAROLINA UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES............

  • beth Nov 23, 2010

    So sad. I want to cry every time I heard this reported. Very sad for me but also sad for the State of NC.

  • CarolinaGirlRJA Nov 23, 2010

    @ YNCSW49 -- you mean deaf ears?

  • gagal Nov 23, 2010

    you know he will get a sweet deal. I want to know if he is going to spill the beans on Bev?????

  • independentvoter3 Nov 23, 2010

    I have been in many courtrooms during my career and seen many many people charged with the same offense and not receive any jail time. Its nothing new! Most of the commenters here just want to be biased because of politics.Plain and simple!
    Wrong again. Most of the commenters here, like myself, are fed up with governmental corruption and want to see those that abuse their powers and our state and federal laws punished accordingly.
    And on a side note... trying to put everyday citizens in the same boat as a past State Attorney General and two term Governor is misleading on your part as you have given the impression that you're a law professional or some other officer of the court. If you are indeed a lawyer, I can't help but question your credentials and your competence.

  • YNCSW51 Nov 23, 2010

    I have been in many courtrooms during my career and seen many many people charged with the same offense and not receive any jail time. Its nothing new! Most of the commenters here just want to be biased because of politics.Plain and simple!

    I concur that is why I did not make a comment because it would have fallen on death ears anyway. It is what it is!!!!!

  • independentvoter3 Nov 23, 2010

    Get a life people! Its dealing with campaign finance laws which in itself are complicated! Not like he killed, raped, or robbed someone. Not excusing what he did, but the crime is minimal compared to others. Its apparent some of you dont have a life!

    No.... there is much more to this story than simple campaign finance violations.... which is why this whole thing is focused on campaign finance violations.
    And yes... this is coming from someone who knows the truth...