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Former Gov. Easley gets law license back

From AP: Former North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley is again allowed to practice law, two years after his license was suspended following a felony plea.

The North Carolina State Bar on Monday reinstated the two-term Democratic governor and former attorney general's law license. State Bar Secretary L. Thomas Lunsford II wrote in his order that Easley satisfied the requirements of his suspension.

Easley accepted criminal responsibility in November 2010 for an improperly filed campaign finance report. Easley's Alford plea for the lowest-grade felony in state law focused on a 2006 helicopter flight worth $1,600 that wasn't reported.

The conviction ended both state and federal investigations into the ex-governor that began shortly after he left office in 2009. Easley has practiced law since 1976 after graduating from North Carolina Central University law school.

Mike Easley petitioning to get his law license back

Former Gov. Mike Easley wants his law license back.

The license of Easley, a lawyer, former state attorney general and two-term Democratic governor, had been suspended until last month by the state agency that regulates lawyers as a result of Easley’s felony conviction in 2010 on a campaign finance violation.

Easley, 62, gave up his law license as he accepted the conviction, which was the result of a plea deal that avoided at least one other possible charge and ended lengthy state and federal investigations of Easley. More here.

Ann McCrory won't host First Lady luncheon during inaugural

Ann McCrory, the wife of incoming Gov. Pat McCrory, won't host a First Lady's luncheon as part of the inaugural festivities next week.

The Junior League organizes the luncheon but Ann McCrory declined to attend and didn't offer a reason, organizers said.

Mary Easley, the wife of Gov. Mike Easley, started the tradition in 2000 and continued in 2004. But Bob Eaves, the husband of Gov. Bev Perdue, declined to do a first gentleman's lunch in 2008.

Ann McCrory has remained largely out of the spotlight during her husband's gubernatorial run, rarely appearing on the campaign trail.

Former Easley aide back in North Carolina to serve time

From AP: A man who served as a top aide to former Gov. Mike Easley is back in North Carolina after serving several months of his tax evasion sentence at a Florida prison.

The federal Bureau of Prisons said Monday records show Ruffin Poole is living at a halfway house in the Raleigh area.

Bureau spokesman Chris Burke said Poole returned three weeks ago after being at a minimum-security prison in Pensacola, Fla., since July. Poole is projected to leave the prison system in early June but will have two years of supervised release.

The 40-year-old Poole received a one-year and one-day sentence for pleading guilty before his trial was to begin on public corruption-related charges. Poole's case stemmed from an investigation of Easley.

Poole's attorney didn't return a phone message Monday.

Notebook: Pat McCrory keeps Perdue as major campaign focus

Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue won't appear on the 2012 ballot -- but she remains the focus of Republican candidate Pat McCrory's stump speech.

The Perdue-pinata theme continued Saturday evening when the former Charlotte mayor rallied Republicans at the Orange County Republican Party's Lincoln-Reagan Dinner.

Here's a few scribbles from my notebook:

--It seems like McCrory relished the chance to challenge Perdue before she exited. And it is clear he is trying his best to tie the other Democratic candidates for governor as closely to Perdue and former Gov. Mike Easley as possible. "All the names that are being discussed supported the Easley-Perdue policies and the way they did business," he told me in an interview after his speech, which hit similar points. "Not one of them spoke against the culture of ethics in the last eight years and said, 'this is wrong.' We can't find it from any of the people running now."

In Perdue's departure from the race, some conservatives see a White House conspiracy. "We have a post-American president who nudged aside a failed governor in North Carolina to make it harder for Pat McCrory," said Frank Roche, a talk radio host and former GOP candidate who served as the event's emcee.

State elections board member says Easley should pay fine

A member of the state Board of Elections says that former Gov. Mike Easley should pay an outstanding $94,665 fine as a condition of getting his law license back.

Chuck Winfree, a member of the elections board since 2001, said the reasoning behind a deal struck by the N.C. State Bar to settle an investigation of Easley and grant him a two-year law license suspension is inadequate as long as the fine is unpaid. Easley, a Democrat, is the former two-term governor who was the subject of state and federal investigations that resulted in a plea deal in 2010 and a felony conviction.

The bar last week consented in an agreement with Easley to a punishment that is less than disbarment and it said was warranted for six reasons, one of them being that "Easley accepts personal responsibility for his own actions and for the actions of his campaign committee."

Winfree said it is "lip service" to conclude Easley took responsibility for the campaign as long as the fine is unpaid. "The State Bar needs to make payment a condition," Winfree said in an interview. "Otherwise, it's all window dressing." Read more from reporter Andy Curliss here.

N.C. Bar to reopen Easley order after N&O identifies mistakes

The N.C. State Bar will revisit the disciplinary order that suspended for two years the law license of former Gov. Mike Easley - a punishment that allows the former two-term Democrat to practice law again in December, despite a felony conviction.

The punishment order contains incorrect information, the bar's general counsel confirmed in an email after a report Saturday in The News & Observer.

It is not clear that the overall thrust of the decision to suspend Easley's license for two years will change because of the erroneous information, which described the reasoning for why Easley was receiving the level of punishment he did. The order cites several factors that "particularly" warranted the suspension of Easley's law license instead of a disbarment, which is the loss of the right to practice law. Read more here.

Easley's law license suspected for one more year

Former Gov. Mike Easley has reached a deal with the N.C. State Bar to have his law license suspended for one more year, a resolution that ends investigations stemming from controversies that surrounded Easley as he left office in early 2009.

Easley, a Democrat who was a two-term governor and state Attorney General before that, was convicted after a plea deal in late 2010 of committing a felony related to improper reporting by his campaign of a flight. Easley has been a lawyer since 1976.

The bar's general counsel, Katherine Jean, told a panel of three disciplinary hearing commissioners today that her office had investigated issues related to Easley and could not find that Easley had knowingly engaged in wrongful conduct. The bar is the state agency responsible for the discipline of lawyers in North Carolina.

Jean said Easley had "played no role in the preparation or the filing of the reports" that were part of his felony plea. Jean said that Easley had not signed the illegal campaign reports but had relied on his professional staff to do that.

Jean said that there is no evidence of "dishonest conduct" by Easley and that he is remorseful, findings the hearing commission accepted. Read the full story here.

Indicted Democratic moneyman has deep ties in North Carolina politics

Peter Reichard has spent more than a decade raising money for North Carolina Democrats, filling the campaign war chests of three of the biggest names in state politics: Mike Easley, Erskine Bowles and Bev Perdue.

He operated largely behind the scenes until two weeks ago, when a Wake County grand jury indicted him for obstruction of justice. Two other Perdue associates face criminal charges as part of a monthslong investigation into the governor's 2008 campaign finances. But more than the others named, Reichard's indictment raises questions about pay-to-play politics and shakes a fragile Democratic establishment still recovering from Easley's felony conviction last year and the legal saga involving former U.S. Sen. John Edwards.

Since the indictment, divergent portraits of Reichard have emerged. Friends and allies say he's an upstanding guy with a legacy of community service. But records compiled by state investigators show that Reichard was better at raising money than accounting for it.

Reichard, 54, declined an interview request but agreed to answer written questions screened by his lawyer and two public relations consultants hired amid the investigation. He refused to answer inquiries related to his pending case.

But in his answers, he struck an apologetic tone. "I was always under pressure to make quick decisions and to problem-solve - many times on the basis of incomplete information," he said. "Did I always make the correct decisions? No. But I tried my best to do a good job. I will be accountable for my decisions." Read the full story here.

State Bar files formal complaint against former Gov. Easley

The N.C. State Bar, the agency that regulates lawyers in North Carolina, has filed a formal complaint against former Gov. Mike Easley over his felony conviction a year ago on a campaign finance violation.

The complaint, filed on Wednesday, says that Easley showed "professional unfitness" and is subject to discipline. Easley, a Democrat, is a former state Attorney General who has had a law license since 1976. The bar's 2-page complaint essentially outlines that Easley was convicted of a felony.

The complaint now will go to the state Disciplinary Hearing Commission, which would hear facts and decide a punishment. A three-person panel of commission members will decide punishment, much like a court would in a criminal case. A year ago, Easley consented to a suspension of his law license.

But through his lawyers he had previously indicated that he would seek to retain his law license at some future date. A hearing has not been set.

--J. Andrew Curliss, staff writer

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