U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle summarized the 57 count indictment Monday, April 19 before aide to former Democratic Gov. Mike Easley Ruffin Poole pleaded guilty to one count of federal income tax evasion. In count 55 of the indictment, Poole failed to report a net gain of $30,000 he received only three months after he invested $100,000 in Cannonsgate.
Poole, known as the “Little Governor,” sat quietly while the prosecutors stated their case. Judge Boyles peppered the prosecution with questions about Ruffin Poole’s association with Wilmington developer Lanny Wilson and where Poole’s investment money came from (a Poole family account). He also questioned how federal and state environmental laws might be enforced for some people and not enforced for others.
It all boils down to permits. Permits were crucial to the development of Cannonsgate because it was considered wetlands. Who best to work around environmental laws but someone in the Governor’s office with the power to make things happen (Ruffin Poole)?
In recent months, several small business owners along the Carolina coast who have applied for permits told Civitas staff they have concerns over the timeliness and validity of permits. Some who have businesses that would have an environmental impact claim their permit requests have been buried under many others and their requests wouldn’t see the light of day compared to the rate at which permits have been approved for other projects.
Finally the Judge asked Poole, “How do you plead?”
Poole said, “Guilty.”
Then the Judge asked, “Are you in fact guilty of the charge?”
Poole hesitated just a second or two and then said, “Yes.”
If Poole had not entered into the plea agreement, been found guilty and received the maximum sentence on all 57 counts, he would have spent the rest of his life in prison. Instead he faces only “up to five years” and has agreed to cooperate and assist the government in their ongoing case. That of course means the case against former Governor Mike Easley.