Local Politics

Ex-Easley aide faces more charges

Posted March 18, 2010 4:02 a.m. EDT
Updated March 18, 2010 5:28 p.m. EDT

— Federal officials on Thursday charged Ruffin Poole, a top aide to former Gov. Mike Easley, with tax evasion and other offenses.

The charges were in a returned by a federal grand jury that has been investigating for more than a year Easley's dealings with friends and contributors while in office.

The grand jury indicted Poole in January on 51 corruption charges, including extortion, bribery and money laundering. The new charges prompted the cancellation of an arraignment that has been scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

Poole, 38, was Easley's legal counsel and trusted adviser during the governor's two terms in office.

The new indictment alleges that he failed to report some income earned during 2005, 2006 and 2007. He also was charged with three counts of using facilities in interstate commerce in the aid of racketeering, charges that stem from using e-mails to discuss using his influence in exchange for monetary benefit.

The original indictment noted that Poole became known among Easley's top contributors as "Little Governor" because he was the person tasked with resolving any problems donors faced with state regulators and with lining up appointments for them to serve on state boards and commissions.

In exchange for his work, the donors gave Poole gifts like free concert tickets and trips, according to the indictment. One paid for Poole's bachelor party in New Orleans, and another bought $600 in liquor for his wedding.

Poole also was allowed to invest in coastal real estate developments at the same time as he was working to secure permits for those projects from state regulators, according to the indictment.

The indictment alleges Poole never reported any of the gifts on his annual financial disclosure forms to the state Ethics Commission and used his family's construction firm to handle money he received through the real estate investments.

Poole's lawyer, Joe Zeszotarski, on Tuesday filed motions to dismiss all charges.

U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle has set an April 26 trial, but Zeszotarski has requested that it be pushed back to August because of the amount of evidence he needs to review to prepare a defense.

Zeszotarski said Thursday that the tax evasion charges will only add to the need for a delay, noting that he won't be able to retain a CPA to study the evidence in the case until after April 15.

Boyle said he won't rule on the issue of delaying the trial until after federal prosecutors respond to the defense motion to dismiss all charges.