Former Perdue campaign finance director and fundraiser Peter Reichard has entered an Alford plea to a felony charge of obstruction of justice.
Reichard was indicted last month after a lengthy grand jury investigation into finance reporting irregularities in the Perdue campaign. Two others were also indicted - former campaign staffer Juleigh Sitton, and longtime Perdue family friend Buzzy Stubbs. Neither appears ready to enter a plea deal.
Reichard's deal helped him avoid a potential 30-month jail sentence. He'll be on unsupervised probation for 2 years.
He also received a $25,000 fine from Wake Superior Court Donald Stephens, who cited the need to dissuade others from "playing fast and loose with the rules" of campaign finance law.
According to Wake DA Colon Willoughby's presentation of the state's case, Reichard set up an agreement with wealthy Burke County Democrat Michael Fulenwider to supplement the income of Perdue campaign worker Juleigh Sitton. Willoughby says Sitton approached the two men about setting up the scheme.
Fulenwider paid Reichard's firm, Tryon Capital Ventures, $2000 a month for "investment advice." Reichard sent $2000 a month to Sitton. The arrangement lasted from August 2007 to November 2008.
Willoughby asked for supervised probation. “Sadly, this type of behavior is becoming the expected norm in campaign finance,” he said, adding that a stiff sentence would send a message that the state takes such charges seriously.
Reichard's lawyer Hart Miles made the point several times that his client did not receive any personal benefit or profit from the crime - a key factor for Stephens in deciding on jail time for campaign finance crimes. He also presented three letters vouching for Reichard's character.
Stephens opted for unsupervised probation, but banned Reichard from campaign work, consulting, or political fundraising of any kind for two years.
"I’m surprised at how a person in such good standing in their religious community, in their business community, in their community at large, who's made incredible contributions to the world in which he lives, can get himself tied up in this foolishness. Sheer foolishness," Stephens said from the bench. "I do not understand."