The "wheels of justice" seem to turn very slowly in North Carolina, but last week former House Speaker Jim Black was finally sentenced in federal court. He'll pay a $50,000 fine and serve more than five years in prison for accepting $25,000 in bribes. He still faces sentencing in state court for felony counts of offering a bribe and obstructing justice.
These convictions barely scratch the surface of the corruption and scandal during his nearly three decades of public service. His attorneys asked the judge to consider allowing the 72-year-old Black to serve his sentence under house arrest while he set up a free clinic to provide eye care and glasses to the poor. For a brief moment we were tempted to agree that might be a fair resolution. After all, it's difficult for the needy to get proper eye care and the state would save the cost of incarcerating him, but that thought didn't last long.
We very quickly realized that the people who might qualify for his free care would probably prefer to be treated by someone with ethical standards and morals. That's not Jim Black. So he will join his associates, former Representative Michael Decker and former state lottery commissioner Kevin Geddings, in prison for what could be at his advanced age, the rest of his life.
It's sad, really. I'm sure Mr. Black didn't plan to become the poster child for bribery and corruption in North Carolina politics when he began his political career, but he deserves the sentence he received.
Let's hope some additional legislation tightening ethics rules comes out of the General Assembly this session to help restore public confidence in our state government.