Local News

Speaker Black May Be Next On Prosecutors' Radar

Posted October 15, 2006

— In the world of politics, there are plenty of questions whether state House Speaker Jim Black can win re-election and retain his leadership post in midterm elections.

Considering what's happened in the legal world, however, that might be the least of the lawmaker's concerns.

"If I were him, I'd be very concerned," said former federal prosecutor Kieran Shanahan.

Shanahan, a Republican, said he sees the speaker in the government's crosshairs.

"It just appears lots of roads are pointing to him," he said.

While former lottery commissioner Kevin Geddings may not have been in the speaker's inner circle, his conviction in federal court this week could strengthen prosecutors' leverage in the broader public corruption investigation.

"It's clear the government has more in mind. This investigation is far from over," said Shanahan.

Prosecutors have implicated former lottery company executive Alan Middleton in a conspiracy, along with Meredith Norris, and unpaid political advisor to Black and a lottery advocate. They even argued in court that Black's personal relationship with Norris influenced his governmental decisions, which he has denied.

Dr. Scott Edwards, a close ally to Black and a fellow optometrist, has been accused of lying on campaign finance reports. Former lawmaker Michael Decker will be sentenced next month on federal corruption charges after admitting to taking a $50,000 bribe to switch parties.

At last February's State Board of Election's hearings, Black claimed he made no promises to Decker, but may have handed over what he thought were legal contributions.

"They might have been given to me in an envelope with his name on it," Black said.

Whether it's Black or people linked to him, investigators won't reveal their next move. However, if recent cases are any indication, they're willing to send officials who betray the public trust to prison.

Geddings will be sentenced in February. There is no word whether he plans to appeal. As for Black, he has continually said he did nothing wrong.


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