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Perdue friend asks judge to throw out flights case

Posted March 7, 2012 10:46 a.m. EST
Updated March 7, 2012 6:24 p.m. EST

— A longtime friend of Gov. Beverly Perdue on Wednesday asked a judge to throw out criminal charges related to unreported flights on private planes provided during the 2008 gubernatorial campaign.

Trawick H. "Buzzy" Stubbs Jr. of New Bern filed a motion seeking dismissal of two felony charges stemming from more than $28,000 paid for chartered flights not reported as contributions by Perdue's campaign.

Stubbs later submitted documents to the State Board of Elections that purported the flights had been contributed to the state Democratic Party when they actually had gone for the Perdue committee. State law limits an individual's giving to a candidate committee to $4,000 per election cycle, and Stubbs had already maxed out for Perdue's campaign.

He pleaded not guilty in the case last week.

Defense attorney David Long of Raleigh argues in the motion that state law doesn't require Stubbs to file anything with the elections board, and any tardy filing by the campaign doesn't amount to a criminal offense by him.

The campaign reimbursed Stubbs, the former law partner of the governor's late first husband, for the flights in May and June 2009.

Stubbs was indicted in November, along with two former Perdue aides accused of using illegal contributions.

Perdue's 2008 fundraising chairman, Peter Reichard, pleaded guilty in December and received a suspended sentence. Julia Leigh Sitton, the former director of the governor's western North Carolina office, pleaded not guilty Monday.

In February, Willoughby's office also indicted another Morganton man on a felony over allegations he deceived Perdue's campaign by hiding the source of money used to pay for a flight.

Long also argues that Wake County isn't the correct location for the case and that District Attorney Colon Willoughby didn't have the proper legal authority to ask the State Bureau of Investigation to probe campaign finance irregularities.

Willoughby didn't follow proper procedure in indicting Stubbs, and Stubbs has already been cleared of wrongdoing by the State Board of Elections, the motion states.

That board, which is appointed by the governor, fined Perdue's campaign $30,000 in 2010 for 42 unreported flights and made no recommendation for any criminal investigation.

That decision was criticized by Republicans as a political whitewash by the Democratic-controlled elections board, and the state GOP chairman asked Willoughby, also a Democrat, to investigate the issue.

Willoughby has said that the SBI investigation turned up no evidence of wrongdoing by Perdue, who announced in January she will not seek a second term.