State News

Government: No delay needed in trial of ex-Easley aide

Posted March 9, 2010 2:17 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2010 2:48 p.m. EST

— Federal prosecutors say a former aide to ex-Gov. Mike Easley should go on trial this spring.

Ruffin Poole was indicted in January on charges of extortion, bribery, racketeering, money laundering and mail fraud. Poole, 38, was Easley's legal counsel and trusted adviser during the governor's two terms in office.

U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle has set an April 26 trial date, saying it was in the best interest of both sides to bring the case against Poole to a speedy conclusion.

Poole's lawyer, Joe Zeszotarski, requested last week that the trial be delayed until August. He said he needs to review almost 37,000 pages of documents that prosecutors have turned over to him.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys John Bruce and Dennis Duffy filed a response this week, saying Poole and his attorney have had enough time and help to prepare.

Zeszotarski responded to that argument by noting that federal investigators have been compiling evidence against Poole for about a year.

The grand jury has since early 2009 been investigating Easley's dealings with friends and contributors while in office, but Easley wasn't named in the indictment.

The indictment alleged that Poole became known among Easley's top contributors as "Little Governor" because he was the person tasked with resolving any problems donors faced with state regulators and with lining up appointments for them to serve on state boards and commissions.

In exchange for his work, the donors gave Poole gifts like free concert tickets and trips, according to the indictment. One paid for Poole's bachelor party in New Orleans, and another bought $600 in liquor for his wedding.

Poole also was allowed to invest in coastal real estate developments at the same time as he was working to secure permits for those projects from state regulators, according to the indictment.

The indictment alleges Poole never reported any of the gifts on his annual financial disclosure forms to the state Ethics Commission and used his family's construction firm to handle money he received through the real estate investments.