Local/State

Easley trying to get his law license back

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

The North Carolina State Bar confirms that former Governor Mike Easley has petitioned to get his law license back.

The two-term Democratic governor hasn't been able to practice law in over two years.

His law license was suspended after he accepted criminal responsibility for an improperly filed campaign finance report. He had been under investigation for flights he took on private planes as a candidate and his real estate dealings. He was not charged with any other crimes.

North Carolina election law requires campaigns to report all cash or so-called in-kind contributions. Failure to report campaign contributions or expenditures is a Class I felony.

Easley agreed to pay a $1,000 fine plus court costs, which keep him out of jail. He was also able to avoid disbarment.

Lawyers convicted of felonies are often disbarred, but a disciplinary panel approved an agreement that concluded a lesser punishment was suitable in part because there was no evidence Easley knew what was in the report.

Easley became eligiable to resume practicing law at the end of 2012 under the agreement.

On Jan. 4, Easley filed his petition for reinstatement. According to the document, Easley fulfilled the requirements for reinstatement, which included paying costs and administrative fees and not violating any law during his suspension.

» Click here to read Easley's petition for reinstatement «

The former governor's 2010 plea wraped up months of investigation into his financial dealings, and was enough for federal investigators to drop a separate grand jury investigation.

In October 2009, the State Board of Elections referred its probe of the Easley election campaigns to Prosecutor William Kenerly to see if Easley or others broke campaign finance laws and if criminal charges were warranted.

The board fined Easley's campaign committee $100,000 when it determined there was enough evidence to show the committee failed to report dozens of flights that ex-political ally McQueen Campbell said he flew for Easley between 1999 and 2004.

However, Kenerly said after months of digging he found no evidence of any criminal wrongdoing on Easley's part outside of campaign issues. He said he did not find any evidence that campaign money was improperly used. He said it was just not properly reported.

Earlier in 2010, ex-Easley aide Ruffin Poole pleaded guilty in federal court to tax evasion. Prosecutors put aside more than 50 other counts in an indictment accusing him of helping move along state permits for coastal housing projects while receiving gifts and a sizable investment return on two of those subdivisions.

Poole agreed to cooperate with federal investigators as part of his plea agreement. He was later sentenced to serve a year and one day in federal prison. He also had to pay a $100 assessment and a $30,000 fine.

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(Copyright ©2014 ABC11-WTVD-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved - The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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