A Wake County North Carolina grand jury today handed down indictments alleging that a top aide to Gov. Bev Perdue's 2008 campaign schemed to pay a staffer $32,000 for work that was kept off the books in violation of state election laws.
The new charges, all felonies, are part of a long-running investigation into Perdue campaign activities that have focused on expenditures that would have triggered election law violations for exceeding the limit on personal donations if they had been reported. Earlier this year a retired state magistrate was charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly trying to hide an illegal campaign flight.
Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby has said that Perdue, a former lieutenant governor and state lawmaker, is not a target of the probe, but today's indictment reached into the campaign's inner circle.
Peter Reichard, a Greensboro businessman who served as the Perdue campaign's finance director, was charged with obstruction of justice. Reichard has been a key player in the gubernatorial campaigns of Perdue and her predecessor, Mike Easley. Reichard served as Easley's finance director for his 2000 gubernatorial campaign.
Reichard's attorney, Hart Miles, said in a statement that his client was disappointed to learn of the indictments. Miles urged the public to withhold judgment until all the facts are known.
"We are prepared to go to trial if necessary," Miles said. "But, Peter's goal is to work in good faith with the District Attorney to see if this case can be resolved without a lengthy and costly trial. Peter is a man who accepts responsibility for his actions."
The indictment against him said his business, Tryon Capital Ventures, received $32,000 in contributions or loans from Charles Michael Fulenwider, a Perdue contributor from Morganton who owns fast food restaurants and had arranged several campaign flights for her. Reichard used the $32,000, disguised as consulting services, to compensate Julia Leigh Sitton, who later became the director of the governor's Western office. She is also known as Juleigh Sitton.
Sitton was charged with obstruction of justice and causing the Perdue campaign to file false reports. She resigned from the director's position in August and had been making $50,000 a year. She is a Morganton attorney who has long been active in Democratic political campaigns. Perdue campaign finance records show she was reimbursed for roughly $4,500 in campaign expenses in the 2008 election.
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