'I'm Not A Thief,' Convicted N.C. Congressman Tells Supporters
Posted December 29, 2005 1:28 a.m. EST
Updated November 19, 2007 5:18 p.m. EST
ROANOKE RAPIDS, N.C. — Former Rep. Frank Ballance told supporters who gathered to raise money and wish him well that he doesn't deserve the prison sentence that he's set to begin Friday.
"I've accepted the situation that I'm in, the fact that a judge decided that I need to have a four-year sentence when under all the facts that was not indicated nor deserved, but you just accept that and move on," Ballance told about 80 people Wednesday night.
Ballance, 63, a Democrat from Warrenton who represented the 1st District of North Carolina, cited ill health when he resigned in June 2004 before completing his first term.
He was sentenced to prison in October after pleading guilty to funneling tax dollars into the nonprofit John A. Hyman Memorial Foundation he operated to help poor people fight drug and alcohol abuse and to using $100,000 for himself and his family.
He was honored at the Roanoke River Community Center in Roanoke Rapids at an event sponsored by "All People Who Love Freedom and Justice," according to the invitation.
Ballance said he didn't ask for the fundraiser, but said he can spend the money however he wants because he has paid all fines and court costs.
"People who know me know that I'm not a thief, I'm not a crook," said Ballance, a state legislator from 1983 until his election to Congress in 2002. "I'm a person who tries to help people."
The program for the fundraiser asked that supporters not "allow the court system, the news media or any biased force to turn you against Frank and his family. It seems to frustrate the power structure when people of color stand together."
Supporters wore orange ribbons as symbols of jail sentences being served by all people of color, according to the program. They also dipped their fingers in orange fingerprint, which they said symbolized the injustice in the court system toward blacks.
"He has touched so many lives," said Dorothy White-Cannon, a supporter. "And the nice things he has done, even though he made a big mistake, the things that he did will live on forever in their lives."
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