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EASLEY INVESTIGATION: Former governor enters felony plea agreement

READ MORE: EASLEY INVESTIGATION: Former governor enters felony plea agreement
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By MIKE BAKER
Associated Press

RALEIGH, NC (AP) -- Former North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley has entered a plea agreement over a false campaign finance report, consenting to a $1,000 fine after state and federal prosecutors spent more than a year combing through his life.

Easley entered an Alford plea in Wake County court, which means he acknowledged the state's evidence could result in a conviction without having to admit any guilt. Prosecutors say the plea also ends a federal probe that started in February 2009, a month after he left office.

Superior Court Judge Osmond Smith still must agree to the plea deal.

The agreement stems from the investigation by Rowan County District Attorney Bill Kenerly, who was brought in to examine the case after the State Board of Elections fined Easley's campaign $100,000.

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Associated Press Writer Gary D. Robertson contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

COMMENTS FROM FEDERAL AND SBI OFFICIALS REGARDING EASLEY CASE

United States Attorney George E.B. Holding commented today on
the guilty plea of Michael F. Easley in North Carolina Superior
Court:

“When federal authorities investigate corruption allegations
involving state officials, it is important that we cooperate with
state prosecutors and investigators, rather than compete with them.
That has always been our office’s policy.

When there are corruption allegations, we investigate them
thoroughly, analyze the current status of applicable federal law,
and then apply the principles of federal prosecution to decide
whether to propose an indictment to the grand jury. As stated in
the our letter that became part of the state court file today,
these principles include whether the potential federal charges are
supported by enough admissible evidence to obtain and sustain a
conviction, whether the accused person should be subjected to
multiple prosecutions, and whether federal charges would promote
cooperation with state prosecutors.

After weighing all these factors and consulting closely with
Special Prosecutor Kenerly, we have decided to decline federal
prosecution of former Governor Easley, and bring to a close the
federal investigation of him. We have written a letter to Mr.
Easley’s counsel to this effect, and that letter was today made
part of the state court file.

It is no cause for celebration that a former Governor of North
Carolina has been convicted of a felony related to his service as
Governor, but it does signify that North Carolina is taking
seriously the enforcement of its campaign finance laws. This ends
a sad chapter in North Carolina history. But North Carolinians are
strong and will overcome this tarnishing or our reputation.
Whenever potential federal violations are implicated, we will
continue to partner with our state counterparts to root out public
corruption in our state.

We would like to thank the FBI, the IRS-CID, and the SBI for
their capable and through work on this matter, and also Special
Prosecutor William Kenerly for his professional handling of the
matter.”

“The Special Agents of the State Bureau of Investigation, the
FBI, and the IRS are to be commended for the professional and
thorough manner in which this case was investigated. The
collaborative work of these agencies was essential in this
investigation,” said SBI Director Greg McLeod.

“This outcome was brought about as a result of partnerships
between federal, state and local law enforcement authorities. More
importantly, we received help from the public. We who are public
servants work for you and we need your help to hold us
accountable. We encourage people to continue to come forward with
information regarding corruption and to contact our Raleigh office
at 919-380-4500 or our main office at 704-377-9200,” said Owen D.
Harris, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in North Carolina.

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