Local/State

Federal jury resumes Easley investigation

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A federal grand jury resumed its investigation of former Governor Mike Easley Wednesday.

ABC11 Eyewitness News learned Tuesday about a DOT official who will be called to testify. Department of Transportation Division 3 Engineer Allen Pope is expected to go before the jury this week.

The court also ordered the DOT to turn over documents related to Easley and key members of his administration. According to the subpoena, the grand jury wants details about payments, contracts, contributions and communication between the DOT and a long list of people connected to Easley.

Click here to read the subpoena (.pdf)

The subpoena also asks for information related to Easley's house in Southport near the South Carolina border.

But it turns out, even as governor, Easley was spending a lot more time in Southport than he ever admitted while in office. Easley spent so much time there while in office, that the North Carolina Highway Patrol rented a house across the street for security detail, at a cost of $72,000 over three years.

The former mayor of Southport appeared at the federal courthouse on Wednesday. Norman Holden is named as a "relevant party" in the subpoena.

Over about seven years while Easley was governor, Holden had a contract as a liaison between the DOT and 11 southeastern counties from Wilmington to Fayetteville, which paid him $129,000.

"I don't know what you are all after, but I don't think it pertains to me," Holden said.

His sporadic work records during that time include many transportation issues, but also various support of Governor Easley. Holden advised on whom to appoint for a judge in Wilmington and passed out awards for the Long Leaf Pine.

When he walked out of the federal courthouse Wednesday, Holden would not even acknowledge he was the former mayor of Southport.

Meanwhile, also walking into federal court on Wednesday was former Easley aid, Susan Raybon.

At some point, the former transportation secretary under Easley, Lyndo Tippett of Fayetteville, is expected to testify before the grand jury as well.

One former Easley aid, Ruffin Poole, has pleaded guilty to tax evasion. Poole made a deal last month with prosecutors.

"Ruffin Poole was alongside the governor every day of Mike Easley's second administration," government watchdog Joe Sinsheimer explained. "He's referred to as the little governor, and he will be able to help federal prosecutors understand lots of Mike Easley's actions and motivations."

Poole pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate fully with authorities. In exchange for his cooperation, 56 charges against him have been dropped.

However, people called to testify before a grand jury is not necessarily accused of doing anything wrong.

Easley has offered very little comment on the investigation. To this point, federal prosecutors have not charged Easley with any crime.

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wake county, mike easley, local/state
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