Family of Former U.S. Rep. Makes Public Plea for an Appeal
Posted November 19, 2007 5:38 p.m. EST
Updated November 19, 2007 7:07 p.m. EST
Halifax, N.C. — The family of former North Carolina Congressman Frank Ballance made a public plea Monday for his appeal to be heard.
Ballance pleaded guilty in 2005 to federal charges involving mail fraud and money laundering. The charges stemmed from accusations he funneled $2.3 million of state money from a non-profit organization he operated to help underprivileged people fight drug and alcohol abuse. He now claims he was coerced into that plea.
“We do not feel that he is guilty of any crime,” said his son, Garey Ballance, a former district court judge who served eight months in prison for failing to file a federal income tax return.
Authorities said Frank Ballance used $100,000 personally or gave the cash to family members. Two years later, his family said that is untrue.
“I didn’t want Frank going to jail for me saying I had money, money that he gave me that I didn’t have, cause he didn’t give me that much money,” said his mother, Alice Ballance.
His family also said Ballance gave his mother money for a grant program. Ballance has served nearly two years of his four-year federal prison sentence. A year ago, he filed an appeal to get out of prison.
Family members said that when Ballance made his plea deal he faced intense heat from prosecutors that he was told his son and mother would also face jail time if he did not plead guilty.
Former federal prosecutor Kieran Shanahan said it is not unusual to see an appeal such as this come after a guilty plea.
"It's sort of a desperate act from a guy who has been convicted, a disgraced congressman, sitting in a jail cell,” Shanahan said.
Shanahan also said Ballance was asked specifically by a judge if he was being forced into making his plea, and he said "no."
Ballance's family said attorneys advised the former congressman to take the plea. They believe it was a mistake, and they intend to keep fighting until Ballance is out of prison.
The U.S. Attorney's Office had no direct comment on the case.