Indictment in Perdue campaign flight probe

NC Governor Beverly Perdue (Steve Helber)
February 8, 2011 3:51:56 PM PST
A Wake County grand jury looking into flights made by Governor Beverly Perdue when she was a candidate handed down an indictment Tuesday against a Morganton man.

Robert Caldwell - chairman of the Western Piedmont Community College Board of Trustees - is charged with felony obstruction.

According to the indictment, Caldwell solicited a check for a campaign donation from Morganton barber James Fleming for about $3,000.

Click here to read the indictment (.pdf)

Caldwell then allegedly reimbursed Fleming in cash and used the check to pay Profile Aviation for a flight taken by Perdue when she was a candidate in 2007.

"The defendant … deceived the treasurer of the Bev Perdue Committee and caused him to file campaign reports with the North Carolina Board of Elections that were not true and correct," reads the indictment.

In published reports, Fleming he did not write any checks to an aviation company and said he had not heard of Profile Aviation. He said a signature on a flight invoice was not his.

The indictment says Caldwell concealed what he was doing from both the Perdue campaign and the candidate.

ABC11 has attempted to contact Caldwell for comment.

Governor Perdue's office declined to comment. It referred all questions to campaign consultant Marc Farinella.

"As the indictment makes clear, the Perdue Committee was unaware of this scheme. We do not condone any activity that breaks laws and we believe strongly that North Carolinians are entitled to full reporting of campaign contributions," said Farinella.

Last August, the State Board of Elections announced it would fine the Perdue campaign $30,000 for dozens of flights aboard campaign donors' planes during the 2004 and 2008 elections that weren't disclosed in campaign-finance reports until the past year.

The Perdue campaign couldn't account for the error, but the governor and her staff have said for the past year that an internal review found the unreported flights and that the campaign voluntarily reported the potential problems to the elections board.

Last week, prominent Raleigh criminal attorney Joe Cheshire confirmed that he and attorney Wade Smith have been hired by Perdue to represent her.

In October, Perdue also announced she had learned there is a separate federal investigation of her campaign.

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