New Easley grand jury reconvenes

July 16, 2009 4:29:11 AM PDT
The federal grand jury that is investigating former Governor Mike Easley reconvened in Raleigh Wednesday.For the last few weeks, federal prosecutors have presented evidence to the jury.

However, Eyewitness News learned from courthouse employees that a new grand jury was seated Wednesday -- in the middle of the investigation.

Former federal prosecutor Dan Boyce said that should not have a big impact on the case.

"I don't think it'll mean anything really," Boyce told Eyewitness News. "Grand juries serve for a period of 18 months. A judge can extend a grand jury for an additional 6 months if it's in the best interest of the public."

It appears the term of the first grand jury ended and a new group of between 16 and 23 people began their term Wednesday morning.

Boyce said the decision to bring in a fresh group signals one thing.

"That could mean that this investigation could be going on for quite some time," Boyce explained. "This type of high-profile case the US Attorney's office is going to be very slow, very methodical, cross the Ts and dot the Is before they indict anybody."

The natural question is what happens with all the information that's already been hears? How does a new grand jury start in the middle of an investigation?

"A case agent could just summarize the evidence that's been presented up to that point in time, and then they carry on from there," Boyce said.

Eyewitness News spoke with US Attorney George Holding and he would not confirm or deny anything about the grand jury.

However, it is known that the investigators are continuing their probe into potential corruption by Mike Easley while he served as governor.

Prosecutors are looking into everything from land deals to flights on private planes and the use of cars. Former first lady Mary Easley and her job at NC State is also a part of the investigation.

Although no known witnesses were spotted entering or leaving the courthouse Wednesday, it is believed that former NC State Larry Nielsen could take the stand in the upcoming days. His testimony could be critical to proving accusations surrounding Mary Easley's employment at NC State.

For months Nielsen maintained that he acted alone in luring Mary Easley to the university in 2005 and then a few years later, nearly doubled her salary.

But e-mails show former Governor Easley and former chancellor James Oblinger were both involved in creating Mary Easley's position.

Under intense scrutiny, Nielsen resigned in May after negotiating what many consider a sweetheart deal of a severance package.

Prosecutors will probably want to know why Nielsen took so much responsibility for Mary Easley's hiring when it appears he did not act alone.

After it became public, Nielsen's pay package to stay at the university and teach was reduced.

To learn more about this investigation including prior testimony and subpoenaed documents, click here.


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