Raleigh, N.C. — Three people connected to Gov. Beverly Perdue's campaign were indicted Monday on charges stemming from an investigation into her campaign finances.
Trawick Hamilton "Buzzy" Stubbs, Julia Leigh Sitton and Peter Anthony Reichard are charged with obstruction of justice, and Stubbs and Sitton are also charged with certifying false campaign finance reports.
The State Board of Elections fined Perdue's campaign $30,000 last year for not reporting dozens of campaign flights aboard donors' planes during the 2004 and 2008 elections until late 2009.
Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby reviewed the information from the elections board's investigation and last fall asked the State Bureau of Investigation to look into the matter further to help him determine whether any criminal charges were warranted.
Perdue has acknowledged that her campaign made mistakes reporting flights, but she has insisted that there was no criminal intent.
"Mr. Willoughby has asked that I not comment on any of this, but I will say that he pointed out one more time that I wasn't involved in any of this," she told WRAL News.
Stubbs, the former law partner of Perdue's late husband and a longtime friend of the governor, provided his private plane for several campaign flights between January 2007 and November 2008, according to the indictment. The trips were valued at $28,000, and he reported them as in-kind donations to the North Carolina Democratic Party instead of to Perdue's campaign.
At the time of the flights, the indictment states, Stubbs had already contributed $4,000 to Perdue's campaign, which is the maximum allowed under state law for a specific election.
Stubbs said he was "saddened" by the charges, noting that he has cooperated with the investigation since the beginning.
"It was never my intent to violate any law, and I intend to plead not guilty," he said in a statement. "I never asked for any favors nor have I received any personal benefit from my support and help advancing Beverly Perdue's campaign for governor."
Reichard, who was finance director for Perdue's 2008 gubernatorial campaign, solicited $32,000 from Morganton businessman Charles Michael Fulenwider, according to the indictment. The money was used to pay Sitton, a former director of the governor's western office, for her work on the campaign between August 2007 and November 2008.
Because Fulenwider had already contributed the maximum to the campaign, the money was funneled through Tryon Capital Ventures LLC, a merchant banking firm in Chapel Hill. Reichard is now managing director of Tryon Capital.
Reichard is prepared to go to trial but will try to negotiate a deal with prosecutors, attorney Hart Miles said.
"He's a guy whose going to stand up and admit the things he did but not admit the things he didn't do," Miles said.
Sitton couldn't be reached Monday for comment.
Fulenwider hasn't been charged in the case, but Willoughby said the investigation could lead to more indictments.
Willoughby said nothing has been brought up in the investigation to implicate Perdue or any other elected official in any wrongdoing.
"The governor's conduct is and was never in question," he said.
Still, political watchdog Joe Sinsheimer said the indictments will hurt Perdue's reputation and her chances at re-election next year.
"Why is it that so many people had to break the law to get the governor elected? Even though the governor wasn't charged, she has yet to answer that question," Sinsheimer said. "She's already weak politically. She's trailing her (likely) Republican opponent for the 2012 election (in polls), and this just weakens her."
North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes called the indictments the latest indication that Perdue hasn't fulfilled her promise to change state government.
"The nature of the indictments against Gov. Perdue’s campaign reminds voters of disgraced Gov. Mike Easley, an era they thought they had moved past," Hayes said in a statement.
Easley pleaded guilty a year ago to certifying a false campaign finance report following a lengthy state and federal investigation. The allegations against him also included improperly reporting campaign flights aboard donors' planes.
Perdue said a year ago that federal investigators also were looking into her campaign finances. It's unclear whether that probe is ongoing.
Monday's indictments aren't the first charges to result from the investigation into the campaign flights.
In February, Robert Lee Caldwell of Morganton, a Perdue political contributor, was charged with obstruction of justice. The indictment alleged that Caldwell secretly paid for a plane to fly Perdue to a campaign stop and had another man report it as an in-kind donation.