Much has been written about the Thomas Wright controversy around these parts. Many, including me, called on him early to resign. Most (not including me) were pleased with the legislature's swift and certain action to expel him. I argued, perhaps wrongly, that the undertone of racism tainted the entire process.
So now let's move to sentencing, where Radio Girl does her typically excellent job on the analysis.
70 months: Wright's state sentence for three felony counts: obtaining a $150,000 mortgage under false pretenses, plus pocketing $7400 in charitable donations from Anheuser-Busch and Astra-Zeneca.
63 months: The federal sentence of former state House Speaker Jim Black, who pleaded guilty last year to corruption. Black admitted buying a vote and taking a half-million-dollar loan under the table from lobbyist Don Beason to finance a real estate deal. The state gave Black a million-dollar fine, which he could afford to pay (thanks in no small part to Beason’s “financing”) and 10 concurrent months, but no additional jail time.
48 months: the federal sentence for former state Representative Michael Decker, who admitted selling his vote – and with it, the Speakership of the NC House – for $50,000 and a job for his son. Presiding Judge James Dever called this case an "epic betrayal."
What they got out of it:
Black: A downtown Charlotte property, financed with Beason's bridge loan, plus tens of thousands of dollars garnered from multiple bathroom meetings.
Decker: $50,000. His son did okay, too.
Wright: No building and maybe a few thousand in cash.
So how is it that fraud in the service of buying a house nets you more prison time than fraud in the service of buying the House? Seriously – is it really more heinous to deceive a banker than a voter?
Laura Leslie suggests that it may have been Wright's refusal to apologize that got him the longest sentence. Maybe so, since Black and Decker groveled all the way to the bank. But there's something else Black and Decker had in common: their skin color. Maybe I'm wrong about Wright and my suspicion that racism shaped the severity of his sentence. But I'm not wrong about the bigger picture.