Easley's problems far from over

November 2, 2009 5:28:22 PM PST
A prosecutor from Rowan County will pick up where North Carolina's State Board of Elections left off last week on former governor Mike Easley.They looked at campaign finance violations, fined his campaign $100,000, and forwarded the matter to the prosecutor to investigate possible criminal wrongdoing.

But, Easley's biggest problems could be waiting in federal court where legal experts say it's looking more and more likely that he will be indicted be a grand jury.

"I think the likelihood that the Governor faces federal indictment is very high," offered former federal prosecutor Kieran Shanahan.

Many believe a politician can escape a corruption charge as long as there is no bribe, no money or gift exchanged for a political favor.

"Well, that would be wrong," said Shanahan.

In fact, elected officials can break federal law simply by accepting a benefit and intentionally hiding it from the public. The charge would be honest service fraud.

"More people go to prison every year because of a violation of honest services law than bribery and extortion combined," former FBI agent Frank Perry explained.

Kevin Geddings, a former state lottery commissioner, is now in federal prison for honest service fraud. Geddings simply failed to report past income from lottery vendors on a state ethics form.

"When you weigh the Geddings type prosecution against the former sitting Governor ... It's likely that a federal prosecution will ensue," said Shanahan.

For Easley, there are allegations of a free car for his son, free plane rides for himself, a free golf club membership, a sweet-heart real estate deal, even a bogus flight invoice typed up to hide his campaign paying for his personal home repairs.

Easley has denied some of the charges - including that he told former associate McQueen Campbell to fake flight invoices.

"It never, ever happened," he told the elections board.

"This seems to be a bunch of petty, self-inflicted, silly to the point of stupid actions," said Shanahan.

But added up in federal court, the troubles for Easley may be just getting started.

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