Politics & Government

Probe of ex-N.C. Gov. Easley will take more time

The special state prosecutor who is overseeing a major part of the investigation of former Gov. Mike Easley says he is consulting federal authorities and expects it will take many months before he reaches any conclusion on the case.

Bill Kenerly, the district attorney in Rowan County, indicated earlier this month that he hoped to decide about a prosecution by February. But after meeting with other officials on the case, he said it would be longer. It likely means that Easley, a two-term Democratic governor and now a lawyer for the McGuireWoods law firm in Raleigh, will remain under a cloud well into next year.

"It was probably optimistic, if not wildly optimistic, that I would be in a position to make a decision by February," Kenerly said in an interview. "With information I have received since then, it is going to take more time and study than that."

By next week, Kenerly expects to have a full transcript of the four-day hearing that led last month to a unanimous criminal referral from the State Board of Elections. Kenerly, a Republican and a district attorney for two decades, was assigned the case because Wake County DA Colon Willoughby is an Easley friend. Kenerly has already announced that he will not seek re-election next year.

The elections board said it had heard evidence suggesting that Easley committed a crime while in office, but it did not specify what violation it believes occurred.

Testimony at the elections hearing centered on free flights that Easley took, a scheme that used campaign money to pay for repairs on Easley's Raleigh home, the free use of a car by Easley's son and efforts by an Easley aide to raise campaign donations from people with pending interests in state government.

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