Most everybody, including myself, has something to say about former Gov. Mike Easley’s plea deal Tuesday. Easley, of course, took an Alford plea bargain, pleading guilty to one count of filing a false campaign finance report. For the felony charge, he got a $1,000 fine.
An Alford plea allows a defendant to plead guilty to a crime without having to admit guilt. Instead, the defendant admits that the prosecution has sufficient evidence to convict him.
News & Observer columnist Rob Christensen noted the irony of seeing Easley, who made his name as first a district attorney and then as an attorney general, sitting at the defendant’s table in a courtroom.
“How had Easley made the journey from the prosecutor’s table to the defense table – from Mr. Clean to felon?” Christensen asks. He goes on to note that it’s apparent that Easley has not come to grips with what has happened.
Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina, found the punishment unsettling. “The puny punishment is neither a deterrent for the future nor an honest portrayal of the wrongdoing that happened,” Hall wrote.
Hall finds only one bright spot in the ordeal, Easley telling the judge, “I have to take responsibility for what the campaign does. The buck has to stop somewhere. It stops with me.”
Hall goes on to say that Easley should accept responsibility for paying the remaining $94,000 of the $100,000 fine that the State Board of Elections levied on Easley’s campaign committee last year. The committee paid only $6,000 and has a zero balance after paying attorney fees, Hall notes.