RALEIGH — After four days of putting the campaigns of Gov. Mike Easley and the N.C. Democratic Party under the microscope, the State Board of Elections expects to decide today whether a criminal probe is needed.
On Thursday, Easley's personal attorney told them to skip the deliberation.
"The question is: 'Do you refer the case to the district attorney?' " said Thomas Hicks. "Please do."
Easley and his campaign committee are under investigation over free air travel and a free vehicle, home repairs billed to the campaign, and evidence that the campaign used the state Democratic Party to skirt contribution limits. On Thursday, attorneys for Easley, his campaign committee and the state party argued to the board that in many cases only minor transgressions occurred that should be resolved with fines from the board.
But Hicks' request that the case go to a prosecutor drew a double-take from board Chairman Larry Leake, who asked whether Hicks had talked with his client before speaking. Hicks said the governor told him to say it, even though he and Hicks say there is no case.
"No matter what happens, the public is going to question, 'Did Mike Easley slip one over on the board?' " Hicks said. "He's saying refer it. That's his position."
Whether the district attorney could handle it is another matter. Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby, who would normally get the case, is a longtime friend of the governor. Easley's son, Michael Jr., a law student, worked for the prosecutor this summer.
Leake and other board members said they would not make a referral based on Easley's request. They said they can make referrals only when they suspect a crime.
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