Local News

Grand Jury Charges Black Associate With Perjury

Posted September 27, 2006 9:42 a.m. EDT

— A Hertford County optometrist with connections to House Speaker Jim Black was indicted on Tuesday on four counts of felony perjury.

The indictments handed up by a Wake County grand jury accuse Michael Scott Edwards, of Murfreesboro, with failing to file accurate campaign finance reports for the political action committee of the N.C. State Optometric Society. He is expected to surrender to authorities Wednesday.

In February, Edwards refused to testify before the State Board of Elections' hearings into whether Black, D-Mecklenburg, also a practicing optometrist, violated any campaign finance regulations. During testimony, the board heard how Edwards allegedly collected checks, in which the payee lines were left blank, from members of the society's political action committee.

Witnesses told the Board of Elections that many of the checks were passed on to Black. They testified that Black directed where the money should go and filled in the payee on some of the checks.

By not reporting the contributions, the optometric committee bypassed legal spending limits.

Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said Tuesday that a court order last month for Black's campaign to return $6,800 in illegal campaign donations resulted in Tuesday's charges against Edwards.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Black's office had not responded to WRAL's request for comment.

Black, who has been under scrutiny for alleged campaign finance violations and his association with former lottery commissioner Kevin Geddings, has not been charged with any crimes.

Geddings, who resigned from the state's lottery commission last year, is on trial for fraud charges. Prosecutors claim he failed to disclose that he worked for a period of time with lottery vendor Scientific Games before Black appointed him to the commission.

Black has said he did not know Geddings worked for Scientific Games and wouldn't have recommended him if he had known of the connection.