Jim Black judge scolds Wake school board

July 16, 2009 11:28:30 AM PDT
The judge in the case of former House speaker Jim Black ripped into the Wake County school board Thursday after a board member was quoted questioning whether property signed over as part of Black's fine is really worth half a million dollars.The hearing was expected to be a routine sentencing proceeding on state bribery charges against Black. The 71-year-old is already serving a 63-month sentence in federal prison on other charges.

But Judge Donald Stephens was so upset with the comments attributed to Wake school board member Ron Margiotta, that he postponed Black's sentencing hearing until a school board attorney could be summoned to the courtroom.

Once the attorney arrived, Stephens got on his soapbox. Although he never called Margiotta's name, he chastised the board member, who was quoted in Thursday's newspaper.

Judge Stephens pointed out that it was his idea to impose the fine on Black, who is in a Georgia federal prison and did not attend the hearing.

The NC constitution mandates that fines, like the one imposed on Black, go to the local public school system.

Stephens added that if he had not imposed the fine, the school board would not have received any windfall. He also noted that he had the power to rescind the fine and make the school board return $500,000 in cash paid my Black and the property he signed over.

It is not clear if the value of the property covers the remaining $500,000 fine.

The school board's attorney told Judge Stephens he doesn't think the full board would question the court's judgment in accepting the property in lieu of cash.

Before the hearing concluded, Stephens sentenced Black to 11-14 months on the bribery charge. He will serve the sentence at the same time as his federal sentence, and so won't face any additional time in prison.


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