Local News

Grand Jury Looking Into Rep. Morgan's Tobacco Ties

Posted November 13, 2006

— After losing his Republican primary race, Speaker Pro Tem Richard Morgan is on his way out of the state Legislature. Before he goes, federal investigators want plenty of information from the longtime Moore County lawmaker.

Federal prosecutors want Morgan to turn over documents about more than three dozen individuals or groups, including a cigarette company that gave money to a political group backing moderate GOP candidates. The grand jury subpoena demands all e-mails, contribution records and documents related to House Speaker Jim Black and former lawmaker Michael Decker.

Subpoena Served To Rep. Richard Morgan

Morgan's office released the subpoena Monday. It also orders him to appear this week before a federal grand jury in Raleigh that over the past few months has summoned dozens of witnesses associated with Speaker Jim Black.

Michael Weisel, one of Morgan's attorneys, said his client made the subpoena public in the interest of full disclosure, even though it was sent to him personally and not in his role as the House's No. 2 leader.

Federal prosecutors have asked Morgan, R-Moore, to provide documents about the same "relevant parties" about whom they subpoenaed Black's office in November 2005. They include several entities related to the video poker and lottery industries, as well as Decker, who pleaded guilty in August to a federal conspiracy charge. Raleigh strip club Thee DollHouse is named, along with some strip club owners.

Federal prosecutors also want any documents Morgan or his office has about S&M Brands, the Virginia-based maker of Bailey's cigarettes, and at least three members of the Bailey family.

S&M Brands gave at least $100,000 in 2004 to the North Carolina Republican Main Street Committee, a group controlled by Morgan's closest allies that ran ads highlighting Morgan and his legislative supporters.

For years, Morgan opposed legislation at the General Assembly that would have forced smaller companies such as S&M Brands, which were not part of a 1998 national tobacco settlement, to make millions of dollars in payments to escrow accounts as if they were part of the settlement.

Morgan and a company attorney said at the time the contribution had nothing to do with Morgan's stand on the legislation.

Decker acknowledged in federal court that he solicited and accepted $50,000 to switch parties. In open court two weeks ago, Decker said Black was a "co-conspirator" in the scheme -- an accusation Black has strongly denied. Black hasn't been charged with any crimes.


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