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This Old State
Jack Betts on North Carolina people, politics,
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Thursday, July 16, 2009
Ticking off the judge

Wake County school board member Ray Margiotta didn't think much of the deal when former House Speaker Jim Black, serving a five-year-plus sentence in federal prison, was allowed to pay off half of a $1 million fine with the transfer of some land he used to own in Matthews. Margiotta is certainly entitled to his views, which no doubt were shared by a great many people who thought Black ought to have paid off the entire $1 million fine in cash.

Margiotta especially didn't like the arrangement because Wake County schools, the recipient of the proceeds after Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens levied the fine in 2007, got $500,000 in cash and the Matthews property assessed at $613,000. Margiotta noted that the Mecklenburg tax valuation was a fraction of that, about $149,000, and complained that the appraisal had been arranged by Black's family.

"We've got an appraisal done for a criminal," he had said earlier. "Give me a break."

Margiotta was exercising not only his First Amendment right to say what he thinks, but also his right to royally tick off the presiding judge.

As the News & Observer's Rob Christensen reports, Stephens was "livid at the remarks and summoned a Wake County School Board attorney to his court room to be chewed out. The judge called the remarks 'idiotic' and noted that he had not been obligated to levy any fine against Black."

Christensen wrote, "'It's like giving your daughter a Toyota and her saying,"Dad, I'd rather have a BMW,"'Stephens said. The judge said he would have to give serious thought to whether he would levy fines in the future that would benefit the Wake County school system."

Stephens made his remarks about the fine at a hearing in Raleigh Thursday morning in which he ruled that Black can serve his state sentence concurrently with his federal sentence -- but that even if Black gets time off from his federal sentence, he'll have to continue serving his state sentence.

AP Reporter Gary Robertson noted in his story today that Stephens said, "If that occurs, I will not reduce this sentence." The judge added, "He'll have to go to the governor to have it reduced."
Posted by Jack Betts at 2:56 PM
Anonymous said...
Finally - someone who will point out how arrogant Judge Stephens has become. It's time to remove him from a place of power in our community.

July 17, 2009 11:08 AM
Anonymous said...
Judge Stephens ego has grown with his power. Someone needs to take note of this and really see if he is what the state needs. Who oversees these guys.

July 18, 2009 9:19 AM

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