Today in state court in Raleigh, former N.C. Speaker of the House Jim Black pled guilty to charges of offering a bribe and obstructing justice. At Cooper’s direction, agents with the State Bureau of Investigation have worked with Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby to investigate these issues since the fall of 2005. The SBI also worked with IRS and FBI agents and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina to investigate allegations of public corruption against Black that resulted in his guilty plea in federal court last week.
SBI employees who worked on these investigations include Assistant Director Erik Hooks, Assistant Special Agent in Charge W. Randy Myers, Special Agent Chris G. Cardwell, Special Agent Tammie
M. Phillips, Special Agent Michael T. Denning, Assistant Special Agent in Charge Kanawha Perry, Assistant Special Agent in Charge D. Steve Wilson, and Lisa McCall.
In just the past five years, SBI agents have investigated more than 270 public corruption cases involving all manner of public officials, including a Council of State member, a member of Congress, legislators, judges, district attorneys, sheriffs and other law enforcement officials, county commissioners, city council members and more. Many of these cases involve thousands of hours of work by the SBI.
Although many of these cases have resulted in successful prosecutions, SBI agents have seen that witnesses have sometimes withheld information or lied outright. When an FBI agent is present during an interview a witness can be charged with a crime, since federal law makes it a felony to lie to federal agents. Attorney General Cooper is asking legislators to make it a crime to lie to an SBI agent.
Cooper is also pushing to allow state prosecutors to use an investigative grand jury. This tool would allow state prosecutors to convene a grand jury to question witnesses under oath, subpoena records and deliberate evidence of wrongdoing by officials and would help root out corruption at all levels of government. Both proposals are included in Senate Bill 132 introduced this month.