RALEIGH — Mike Easley, North Carolina's governor from 2001 to 2009, became a convicted felon today when he entered a plea to violating state campaign finance laws.
He will not serve time but will pay a $1,000 fine.
Superior Court Judge Osmond Smith endorsed the deal shortly after noon during a hearing at the Wake County courthouse. It ends nearly two years of state and federal probes that had surrounded Easley, a Democrat who served two terms as governor and two terms as attorney general.
Easley, 60, entered an Alford plea of guilty to violating campaign finance laws, a felony. An Alford plea means that Easley is not admitting guilt, but he acknowledges there was sufficient evidence to convict him of a crime.
"Our campaigns over the years have made financial errors," Easley said. "We've tried to correct them when we could. However, as a candidate, I have to take responsibility for what the campaign does. The buck has to stop somewhere and it stops with me."
The plea is specifically tied to a helicopter flight Easley took in October 2006 with longtime ally McQueen Campbell, the former chairman of the board of trustees at N.C. State University. It is valued at $1,600.
At the time of the flight, Easley's campaign did not disclose it as required on campaign disclosure forms. Then, last year, following a report in The News & Observer about a vehicle that Easley's son had been driving for years, the Easley campaign amended its 2006 report and said that the SUV had been a campaign vehicle at that time.
But the helicopter flight again was not disclosed, which made it either an in-kind campaign contribution or an unreported campaign expense, according to prosecutor William Kenerly of Salisbury.
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