State News

Trial Opens for State Ex-Rep. Accused of Fraud, Pocketing Contributions

Posted March 31, 2008
Updated April 1, 2008

— Prosecutors say former Rep. Thomas Wright bilked a bank and several corporate donors out of thousands of dollars as part of a scheme to enrich himself.

The allegations came in opening statements Monday in Wright's criminal trial. The Wilmington Democrat is charged with fraudulently obtaining $150,000 in bank loans and pocketing another $19,000 in contributions meant for his campaigns and a health foundation he led in Wilmington.

"That organization really wasn't a tax-exempt organization. That organization was simply Thomas Wright,”  Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said.

Wright's attorney countered that no one is complaining they were duped.

"There was no money spirited away, not $150,000, not $100,000, not $5," attorney Douglas Harris said. "It was simply a loan that didn't work out."

Harris told jurors the eight-term lawmaker, who was booted from office earlier this month, should be thanked for his work in the community.

Earlier Monday, Superior Court Judge Henry Hight denied a motion from Harris to postpone the trial, which has already been delayed once.

Harris cited the intense attention that surrounded Wright's recent removal from the House, but Hight noted that the only attention the case was getting Monday came from the reporters gathered in the courtroom to watch.

Hight did agree with a defense motion to have Wright tried solely on four fraud charges.

He denied Harris' request to dismiss a charge of obstruction of justice – focusing on about 400 campaign contributions that prosecutors say were not reported.

Hight ruled that the obstruction of justice charge was unrelated to the fraud charges and Wright could stand trial for obstruction of justice later.

Wright is challenging his expulsion from the House in court, arguing that legislators violated his constitutional rights in part by removing him based on a lower threshold of evidence than is used to determine guilt in a criminal proceeding.


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  • durham citizen Mar 31, 2008

    I trust the Judge will not allow Mr. Wright to smack his chewing gum as he did in the hearings.

  • whatelseisnew Mar 31, 2008

    Hmm he bilked thousands? Maybe this ought to be dropped. After all this state legislature and Governor has bilked all of us for millions and they are still all in their chairs. Maybe Wright was just trying to fit in with his peers.

  • Tax Man Mar 31, 2008

    He was duly expelled and he will be duly convicted. Hope he can join his buddy Jim Black for at least some of his sentence. Birds of a feather! Crooks, liars, thieves and cheats. Glad they are catching up with these bums. Toss them all out. Clean up NC politics - send them all to jail!

  • howdiditgettothis Mar 31, 2008

    Puh-leeezzzeee........enough of this sleeezzzee.......

    Yeah, right -- we should thank him....that he didn't flee the country with all the money he stole.

    This guy has an overblown sense of entitlement!

    Unfortunately, the people that kept voting him in office obviously aren't any brighter, either.

    Our taxes support people/counties like this.


  • NCMOMof3 Mar 31, 2008

    constitutional rights? show me in the constitution where it says you have the right to serve as a state representative and I'll agree that we violated his constitutional rights. He was not in a court of law when his fellow representative's met and decided that he had not upheld the duties of his office and so voted to have him removed. He's grasping at straws