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Wright Appears in Court Without Attorney

Posted December 31, 2007

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— Indicted state Rep. Thomas Wright appeared in a Wake County courtroom Monday morning, but a judge was miffed that his attorney didn't show up with him.

Wright, an eight-term Democrat from New Hanover County, was indicted three weeks ago on five counts of obtaining property by false pretense and one count of obstruction of justice in connection with unreported campaign contributions and two allegedly fraudulent loans.

North Carolina Central University law professor Irving Joyner went to court Monday with Wright during an initial appearance. But he said he wasn't there to represent the lawmaker, only to state that Douglas Harris, a Greensboro attorney, had been retained to handle Wright's case.

The maneuver didn't please Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens.

"Right now, Mr. Wright is not represented," Stephens said. "You are not representing him for any purpose other than to stand here today and tell me that somebody else is going to be the lawyer in the case."

Joyner said Harris had another client on trial and couldn't make Wright's court hearing.

Stephens ordered Wright to return to court Friday with Harris to ensure that the lawmaker had the proper legal representation.

"I want a lawyer here to stand before me and tell me that he represents Mr. Wright," the judge said.

The only Douglas Harris listed in the North Carolina State Bar directory was disciplined in January 2003 for misappropriating a client's settlement money from an automobile wreck. A State Bar committee voted to suspend Harris' license for two years, but the suspension was stayed on the condition that Harris met certain requirements.

Wright, who was given two boxes of evidence against him collected by investigators, declined to comment on Monday's proceedings.

On Thursday, a six-member House select committee will hold what amounts to a probable cause hearing on five of the six charges against Wright.

The Legislative Ethics Committee can address only one of the obtaining goods by false pretense because it was linked to his role as a legislator. The charge alleged that Wright used his position to influence a state official to write a letter to help him obtain a $150,000 loan for a real estate deal in Wilmington.

The other charges allege he accepted $185,000 in unreported campaign donations and diverted almost $19,000 in contributions and loans into his personal accounts when they were supposed to go into a fund he directs.

Wright has refused to resign, saying the voters would determine whether he remains in office.

If the House decides to remove him, it will be the first time the General Assembly has expelled a member since 1880.

64 Comments

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  • unchick Jan 2, 2008

    my thoughts exactly chavke! Well said

  • Sandollar Jan 1, 2008

    Since 1880. The General Assembly doesn't seem to be doing their job. Surely there have been crooks, criminals and theives during then and now. No one stands for anything anymore. Except smiley idiots.

  • chavke Jan 1, 2008

    It's funny that some of these people on here turn everything that involves a minority into a race issue are the same ones that complain that minorities use race too much as an issue.

  • nc resident Jan 1, 2008

    figures.....the old "I don't have a lawyer trick"...is this the best a state lawmaker can do? I this a perfect picture of NC law? If it was you or I we'll be sitting behind bars waiting for trial. I bet the NCAAP will be into this.

  • Panther Jan 1, 2008

    My question is “how long will it take the race card to be thrown in court?”
    I hope this case is deicide on its merits and not political pressure. If found guilty throw him in general population and not camp cupcake. If found innocent let him continue to hold his seat.

  • moonpie Jan 1, 2008

    myview, I was trying to inject a little humor...he's just another crooked politician.

  • lynddsy Jan 1, 2008

    what a way to delay!!

  • whatusay Dec 31, 2007

    So I guess if Wright refuses to bring a lawyer in to represent him he will never be tried. The judge should have proceeded with the hearing. Wright is a crook and a shyster and this judge let him off again, today...and probably next time also.

  • parr4246 Dec 31, 2007

    where's the smile he wore in the photo that was published earlier today...........???

  • unchick Dec 31, 2007

    However,it seems that some black people think that their representative is being framed by the white people.

    TGW, that's an unfair statement to make. Where is anything like that stated in this story. How does he just become the representative for black people. Most of the black people I know including my family, did not vote for Mr Wright. Believe it or not most blacks do not vote for someone just because they are black. The problem I have is that some whites are quick to say that black people throw in race whenever something wrong is done but if anyone would take the time to read these post you will not see a host of blacks defending mr Wright and most if not all of the post that are talking about race are white. Point blank, wrong is wrong regardless of race so please give us a little more credit.

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