Local News

Former Deputy Commissioner Tries To Move On With Life After Ag Scandal

Posted August 4, 2003

— Former North Carolina Deputy Agriculture Commissioner Mike Blanton was arraigned Monday in Greenvile on obstruction of justice, witness tampering and perjury charges. Blanton said he is trying to move on with his life and so far, he is not giving in to the accusations.

Before he resigned in June, Blanton was indicted on 10 counts of obstruction of justice and perjury charges. On Monday, he pleaded not guilty to those charges.

"I don't want to comment on the case, on the facts of the case and how this is going to play out," said Sam Currin, Blanton's attorney. "We are just going to work very hard. There is a lot of discovery. There are a lot of documents that we have not seen yet."

Blanton said he has been pleased with the support he is getting from his family and friends. A trial date has been set for Oct. 6. Prosecutors had originally wanted the trial to take place in September, but defense attorneys said they need more time to prepare their case. The judge granted the defense's request.

Blanton is not accused of the extortion and fraud that brought down former Agriculture Department employees Linda Saunders and Bobby McLamb. He is charged with lying, altering checks and pushing others to block the investigation. Saunders and McLamb pleaded guilty to fraud and extortion charges at their arraignments.

Prosecutors said Blanton he did it to cover up former ag Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps' knowledge of an illegal loan scheme.

Blanton said he is now working for a landscaping company.

"I'm working outdoors and I have a great farmer's tan and less stress that I have had in the past 10 years," Blanton said. "I'm enjoying being out there, getting dirty and sweating a little bit for a change instead of dealing with politics."

Although Blanton's indictment states he had an affair with an Ag Department official, he says his marriage is stronger than ever.

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