Local Politics

Jim Black to get optometrist's license back

Posted November 12, 2010 9:17 a.m. EST
Updated November 12, 2010 10:07 a.m. EST

— Former state House Speaker Jim Black, who was imprisoned on state and federal corruption charges, will receive back his license to practice optometry.

The North Carolina Board of Optometry voted Thursday at a meeting in Asheville to reinstate Black's license. Black will have to file procedural paperwork and pay to renew his license but can expect to have it back within the next two weeks.

After pleading guilty to state and federal charges in 2007, Black made an agreement with the board to surrender his license while he was in federal prison, with the condition that that he could seek reinstatement after his release.

Black was released from federal prison in October and given permission to serve the rest of his sentence either under house arrest or in a halfway house in Mecklenburg County.

Once one of the most powerful politicians in North Carolina, Black ran an optometry practice in Charlotte and Matthews while he was in the House.

He pleaded guilty to federal charges that he accepted illegal campaign contributions from chiropractors in exchange for supporting legislation favorable to the industry.

He also pleaded guilty to state charges of bribery and obstruction of justice. The bribery charge was in connection to paying former Forsyth County lawmaker Michael Decker to switch parties in 2003 so Black could retain a share of the House speakership. The obstruction charge stemmed from encouraging chiropractors to fudge when speaking to authorities about cash they had given him.

Black was sentenced to 63 months in prison and fined $1 million. The state prison sentence ran at the same time as his federal sentence, and Black trimmed a year off the sentence by completing alcohol treatment in prison and through good-behavior credits.