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Defense Paints Expelled Lawmaker as Compassionate, Distracted

Posted April 1, 2008

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— Prosecutors accused former Rep. Thomas Wright of bilking a bank and several corporate donors out of $350,000, but his defense attorney described Wright as a compassionate lawmaker who got distracted by such details as cashing checks.

The second day of the Wilmington Democrat's trial on four felony fraud charges opened in a Wake County courtroom Tuesday morning.

In opening arguments Monday, prosecutors said Wright fraudulently obtained $150,000 in bank loans and pocketed another $190,000 in contributions meant for either his campaign or a health foundation he led in Wilmington.

Tens of thousands of dollars, instead, ended up in his personal accounts, Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said.

"That organization really wasn't a tax-exempt organization. That organization was simply Thomas Wright," Willoughby said. "He was the person behind the curtain pulling the levels."

Wright's defense concentrated on presenting the strengths and shortcomings of the eight-term lawmaker, whose colleagues voted him out of office in late March.

Attorney Douglas Harris said that Wright was not in politics for himself and that he focused more on helping others than such tasks as bookkeeping.

"He is so interested in the big picture, ... in the big things he's doing," Harris said. "He doesn't pay attention to the small things."

Harris argued that Wright was simply bad at handling money and often did not deposit checks for months.

"You'll hear him testify that it's not uncommon for him to leave checks laying around on his desk, personal or otherwise," the defense attorney said.

When Wright finally got around to depositing some checks for the health foundation, its accounts had been closed, Harris explained, so Wright then put the money into his own account.

Harris contended that ultimately his client did not commit any fraud – merely bookkeeping mistakes.

"A man is entitled to a failure now and then," Harris said.

47 Comments

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  • jackadoo Apr 1, 2008

    hokie 94, could not say it better. If someone believes his attorney, do we really need someone THAT distracted spending our tax dollars?

  • VT1994Hokie Apr 1, 2008

    This case is a farce. His lawyer is a farce. He is an elected official that can't get his checkbook straight!!!! How did he get this job? He is blaming all of this on poor books and record keeping? BUT, IT ENDS UP IN HIS CHECKING ACCOUNT.

    THIS IS A JOKE!

  • foetine Apr 1, 2008

    Is he really pulling the Clay Davis defense from The Wire?

  • weasleyes Apr 1, 2008

    This man will never serve a single day in prison.

  • bushretard Apr 1, 2008

    If the health foundation had closed, then this greedy politico thief should have returned the checks to the donors...not cash them into his own pocket.

  • xxxxxxxxxxxxx Apr 1, 2008

    Well I don't need to read the comics - this is the funniest thing I've read all day.

    Gee, there's an extra $350,000 in my checking account; I wonder how it got there? Maybe I forgot to pay the electrc bill. Oh well, I guess I can buy that new boat now!

  • NCMOMof3 Apr 1, 2008

    oops, honey, I forgot that I cashed all of those checks and we now have an extra $350,000.00 in our bank account. How in the world did that slip my mind? I must be so busy with the kids these days and PTA and church and school, and you know the new neighbors are just really getting on my nerves and you just had to move your mom into our spare bedroom, I just can't keep up with the details anymore

  • US VET Apr 1, 2008

    Hope the jury doesn't fall for this trash.. How do defense lawyers sleep at night?

  • daisy Apr 1, 2008

    I wonder if his attorneys can defend him by making those statements with a straight face?

  • mramorak Apr 1, 2008

    I paint him greedy .

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