Black enters guilty plea

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 16, 2007

RALEIGH – The fallout continues.

On Wednesday, Jim Black, former North Carolina Speaker of the House and a veteran Charlotte politician who has been the target of several recent investigations, resigned his seat.

This comes roughly one week after one of Black’s political allies, Murfreesboro optometrist Michael Scott Edwards, entered a plea of obstruction of justice in exchange for four counts of perjury being dropped. That criminal proceeding took place in Wake County Superior Court in a case stemming from investigations linking Edwards with Black.

The case against Edwards centered around his position as treasurer of the North Carolina Optometric Society’s Political Action Committee. The investigation revealed that Edwards gave $100 checks (with the payee and date lines left blank) from optometrists from across the state either directly to Black or forwarded to politicians at Black’s discretion.

Several checks wound-up in the hands of Michael Decker, a former State Representative who later resigned and said he took a $50,000 bribe to switch parties to support Black.

On Thursday, Black pled guilty to one felony count of accepting illegal gratuities. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

While state Democrats kept Black at arm’s length during the height of the investigations and subsequent resignation, the North Carolina Republican Party didn’t hesitate to respond to the news.

“America is a nation of laws. When men or women disregard the rule of law, a day of accounting usually comes.

That day seems to have arrived for Jim Black,” said Linda Daves, Chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party.

She continued, “Jim Black has hurt North Carolina by leading our state into an era of unprecedented corruption.

His colleagues, the House Democrats may have enabled his behavior and have benefited from the corruption over the many years he was in power. They cannot escape responsibility.

“The people of North Carolina deserve their apology and an explanation.

I call on the House Democrats and the North Carolina Democrat Party to apologize to the citizens of this great state and to work with the North Carolina House Republicans in returning integrity and honesty to the General Assembly.”