A top aide to former Gov. Mike Easley who helped gather campaign donations from politically connected businessmen declined Thursday to testify before the State Board of Elections, citing his Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate himself.
Shortly after, the aide's employer, the McGuireWoods law firm, said he was no longer with the firm.
The aide, Ruffin Poole, 37, of Raleigh, served as Easley's special counsel and executive counsel during the governor's two terms in office. Both later joined the McGuireWoods firm. Poole had become known as the guy to turn to for patronage jobs and help with many regulatory matters.
The board had sought Poole's testimony since October, when it conducted hearings into possible election law violations in the campaign of Easley and the state Democratic Party. But Poole resisted the board's subpoena, and a Superior Court judge sided with him for reasons that were kept secret. The N.C. Court of Appeals overturned the decision, sending Poole back before the board Thursday.
Dressed in a dark pin-striped suit and a red-striped tie, Poole answered only one question - stating his name - before his lawyer, Joseph Zeszotarski Jr., put an end to the questions.
Then the board chairman, Larry Leake, said Poole had a choice: Testify or spend the next 30 days in jail for contempt.
"I will tell the board right now, Mr. Poole is relying on the Fifth Amendment right not to answer your questions," Zeszotarski said.
With that, Leake excused Poole from testifying. He left without a word.
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