Former Governor of North Carolina, Mike Easley, was convicted of violating campaign finance laws for failing to report a helicopter ride he took with a supporter valued at $1,600 as a donation.
Easley's voice cracked at times as he answered questions from the judge about whether he understood his plea, known as an Alford guilty plea. It means that he did not admit guilt, but acknowledged there was enough evidence to convict him on the charge, which is the lowest level felony in North Carolina.Source: The Raleigh News & Observer
Easley's wife, Mary, and son, Mike Jr., were not in court because, according to one of Easley's lawyers, it was too painful for them to watch.
"I have to take responsibility for what the campaign does," Easley told the judge. "The buck has to stop somewhere. It stops with me, and I take responsibility for what has occurred in this incident."
The judge accepted the plea agreement, which specified that Easley would avoid jail time and receive a fine of $1,000 plus $153 in court costs.
Easley now risks losing his law license - and he enters the history books.
"Any good he did as governor is overshadowed by this," said Gary Pearce, a longtime Democratic Party consultant. "[F]rom now on, whenever someone writes about him, or when his obituary is written some day, the first phrase following the comma after his name will be, 'the first governor convicted of a felony.'"
Last year, his campaign committee was fined $100,000 for various unreported airplane flights. My coverage of that is here and here.
Governor Mike Easley has gotten off very easy. This amounts to a mere slap on the wrist for the crimes he has committed.
The effort to convict Governor Easley is a long one. If you care to, you can peruse the posts that appeared on News and Observer blog Under The Dome for a history of the Easley case. They have done a good job keeping up with this criminal probe of Mike Easley.
**5.26am** [News-Record] Did Easley accidently get immunity?