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Ex-NC speaker says he took plea deal to end ordeal

MATTHEWS — Former state House Speaker Jim Black said in a television interview broadcast today that he didn’t do anything illegal and never sought a profit despite his guilty plea to a federal corruption charge.

Black told WRAL-TV in Raleigh that he took the plea deal to end a costly ordeal.

“There are some things that I just finally had to agree to to get it over with,” said Black, who spent three years in prison. “I spent over $1 million in legal fees, so I told my lawyer to make a deal.”

Black told the station that he never did anything to put money in his pocket, but he said he knows critics will never believe his side of the story. He said he wants to get on with life now that he has served his sentence. He has regained his license to practice optometry and is writing a book about North Carolina politics.

“I hold my head up high,” he said. “I know what I did, and God knows what I did and what I didn’t do better than anybody else.”

Black pleaded guilty in 2007 to taking thousands of dollars from chiropractors while pushing their agenda at the General Assembly. He also entered an Alford plea to state charges of bribery and obstruction of justice.

State prosecutors accused Black of giving former state Rep. Michael Decker, R-Forsyth, as much as $58,000 in cash and campaign contributions to switch parties in 2003, a move that helped Black remain co-speaker. Black repeatedly denied that he bribed Decker.

Black, who led the House for eight years as speaker or co-speaker, also satisfied a $1 million fine in state court. An 11- to 14-month state prison sentence running simultaneously with the federal sentence was completed in September, according to the North Carolina Department of Corrections.

“I can’t blame what happened to me on anybody else, and I don’t,” he said. “I didn’t come out bitter. I did the best I could do.”

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