Former N.C. House Speaker Jim Black, recently freed from federal custody on corruption charges, told a Raleigh TV station Thursday that he did "not ever, ever do anything for money in my pocket."
The 76-year-old Democrat served more than three years in federal prison after pleading guilty to accepting at least $25,000 in illegal, mostly cash payments from chiropractors, reports The Charlotte Observer's Jim Morrill.
In 2009 a state judge sentenced him for bribery, a sentence that ran concurrently with the federal term he served in two federal prisons.
Speaking to WRAL anchor David Crabtree at his Matthews home, Black used the analogy of a football field.
"There are people who need you out of the way, want you out of the way, and there's no way to be careful enough to not cross the line somewhere," he said. "If the right people want to take you out of the picture, stepping on the sideline is absolutely prohibited. So, that's just how it happened.
"If I could go back, I would avoid some of those times when I stepped on the sideline."
Crabtree did not press Black to talk about the details of the illegal acts to which he pleaded guilty, such as his paying former Republican Rep. Mike Decker with $50,000 in cash and checks. In return, Decker voted to help Black retain the speaker's gavel.
Black was also convicted of accepting $25,000 in cash and a $4,000 check from chiropractors while pushing legislation to help the profession. Crabtree also didn't ask Black about the secret $500,000 "loan" he got from former lobbyist Don Beason.
Black served 22 years in the House and eight as speaker. Asked why he became a target, he said, "I stayed too long, I guess. I do know that I stayed too long."
Black told the station that he pleaded guilty only to get the investigation over.
"There are some things that I just finally had to agree to get it over with," he said. "I spent over $1 million in legal fees, so I told my lawyer to make a deal."