Ex-Easley aide gets year in jail

Former attorney for Gov. Mike Easley, Ruffin Poole arrives at a N.C. State Board of Elections hearing in downtown Raleigh on Monday, Oct. 26, 2009. (Chris Seward)
May 17, 2011 2:34:13 PM PDT
A former aide to ex-North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley was sentenced in a Raleigh courtroom Tuesday.

Ruffin Poole, 39, will serve a year and one day in a federal prison for income tax evasion. He must pay a $100 assessment and a $30,000 fine. Restitution for more than $16 thousand in unpaid taxes has already been paid.

Poole must report to prison by July 15. He requested he be sent to a facility in Bennettsville, SC, and the judge agreed to recommend that location.

When he gets out of prison, Poole must serve two more years of supervised release.

"I'm sorry to be standing in front of you and all my family and friends. I'm deeply remorseful for my actions that bring me in front of this court. My mistakes will impact me for a lifetime," Poole told U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Boyle.

Poole pleaded guilty last year to failing to report a hefty profit on coastal property. The omission was uncovered during a federal probe involving the previous two-term governor.

Poole served as a personal assistant and special counsel to Easley. Poole was accused of participating in an elaborate pay-to-play scheme, in which a real estate developer would give him lavish gifts and secret investments, in order to make sure various permitting issues were resolved.

"Today was about Ruffin Poole. In the sentencing today, Ruffin Poole was held accountable for his conduct: Taking a deal netting him $55,000 (and other favors) from the financier of coastal developments while he was using his official position in the Governor's Office to facilitate permitting for these developments," said United States Attorney George E.B. Holding in a statement after the sentencing.

Insiders said Poole was known as the "Little Governor" in Easley's office because supporters knew to go to him to get things done.

Poole entered his plea in April 2010, just before his trial on 57 corruption-related counts was to begin.

The plea agreement directed Poole to help federal investigators looking at activities surrounding Easley and the governor's associates.

In November, Easley entered an Alford plea to a felony campaign finance violation involving 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.

An Alford plea meant he did not admit guilt, but acknowledged the evidence against him could lead to a guilty verdict.

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