State News

Lawmaker's Fraud Trial Delayed

Posted February 25, 2008
Updated February 26, 2008

— A judge on Monday postponed a criminal trial for state Rep. Thomas Wright.

The Wilmington Democrat was scheduled to go to trial next week on fraud and obstruction of justice charges, but Superior Court Judge Henry Hight agreed to push the trial back after Wright's lawyer said he needed more time to prepare for the case.

"I don't think any attorney alive could grasp that much material that quickly and have a fair trial," defense attorney Douglas Harris said, referring to boxes of documents turned over to him last month by prosecutors.

Wright was indicted in December on six felony charges for his handling of more than $350,000 in campaign donations, loans and charitable money. He could face up to 11 years in prison if convicted on all charges.

Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby, who had pushed for a speedy trial to resolve the charges before the May 6 primary election, said he would have to check the court calendar to determine when he could schedule the trial.

The charges against Wright stem from:

  • $185,000 in campaign donations authorities said weren't reported
  • allegations that the lawmaker 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
  • accusations that he diverted almost $19,000 in contributions and loans into his personal accounts when they were supposed to go to a nonprofit organization he directs

Harris has blamed many of Wright's troubles on sloppy bookkeeping. Harris has said he expects a jury will find Wright innocent.

Wright has refused to resign, saying voters should determine if he remains in office. He recently announced plans to run for re-election.

House lawmakers have also charged Wright with ethical misconduct, and they may censure or remove Wright from his legislative seat.

A special legislative committee is expected to begin hearing Wright's case next week.

"It is time for us to hear the evidence and make a judgment," said state Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, who co-chairs the special committee. "It is not politically motivated. It is a very strong and deep belief that ethics charges need to be resolved in some fair and timely manner."

The General Assembly hasn't expelled a sitting lawmaker since the 1880s, and Harris said he doesn't think the legislative committee should act until the criminal case against Wright is resolved.

"They shouldn't go ahead for the best reasons – because it pollutes the trial. They're down there saying things about the trial, making comments about my client. They should never say those kinds of things," he said.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • redant Feb 26, 2008

    Be patient. The mongoose will have its way with this cobra in the end.

  • AM is Back to Being Immaculate Feb 25, 2008

    The law says that this man is innocent until proven otherwise people.

  • Feb 25, 2008

    Guilty next month, next year. One more try to hide assets, transfer money, etc., before the hammer falls. This fine "gentleman" is leaving a trail worthy of any slug.

  • x Feb 25, 2008

    I certainly hope the IRS is examining Wright and all the other NC politicians with questionable income. As an elected official Wright has to file a copy of his tax returns with the board of elections. Can we find out if those are up to date? The IRS does not postpone audits and penalties for the excuse of sloppy bookkeeping. Don't you tire of hearing of this guy manipulating the judicial system to his own advantage?

  • x Feb 25, 2008

    What a bunch of weenies..... This guy continues to scam the public, his colleagues, and the judicial system.... and he is running for office again. Only in Carolina can this kind of blatant political hogwash exist.

  • ratherbnnc Feb 25, 2008

    Mr. Wright must have some very incriminating pictures of Judge Hight. This is standard operating procedure with every public official that comes under investigation. The Judge's extremely questionable action is overshadowed only by his total disconnect from reality.

    I seriously doubt he has anything on Judge Hight. Judge Hight is a no nonsense Superior Court Judge from Henderson. If this is his first appearance in Superior Court on a motion ( probably for a continuance) then it is not unusual for his attorney to ask for a delay. Besides, Judges usually have no problems granting a continuance unless the District Atty objects to it. Which in this case, appears not to be the case.

  • yruatwit Feb 25, 2008

    Mr. Wright must have some very incriminating pictures of Judge Hight. This is standard operating procedure with every public official that comes under investigation. The Judge's extremely questionable action is overshadowed only by his total disconnect from reality.

  • bill0 Feb 25, 2008

    Frankly, I don't care for him much and I think he is a crook.... but with that said...

    He is entitled to put forth whatever defense he can muster. He was indicted right at the end of last year, so it isn't unreasonable to request a couple of month delay. Undoubtedly, he is going to want to hire several accountants, tax professionals, and election law experts. That isn't something you can do overnight.

  • djofraleigh Feb 25, 2008

    Somehow Wright seems to think that ONLY his district can remove him from office. IF we allowed that, then OUTLAW lawmakers would be bringing home the loot taken from the state to their district and the profiting voters (if immoral) would profit.

    This is yet another test of NC politics - Can NC govern itself and control its Assembly? Are the courts going to get justice done, or is the court going to wait out the election? Why does't the Assembly take the ball back in their court and act alone, notwithstanding the court. The Assembly doesn't have the restraints that bind the court. Common sense had better kick in gear. I'm losing the confidence in state government gained by Black et al. convictions and jail time.

    MAYBE IT IS TIME TO VOTE REPUBLICAN to get a two party system going strong in NC.

  • Sandollar Feb 25, 2008

    I still think his bookkeping is a reflection of the mafia organization. Lawmakers should serve twice as much time as is written in the law.