Former House Speaker Jim Black emerged from prison last week, three years after his conviction in one of the highest profile corruption cases in North Carolina history. Crooked politicians often seem content to occupy the shallow end of legal pool, staying close to the edge, whereas Black dove right into the deep end by accepting at least $25,000 in illegal, mostly cash, payments.
Both types of ethical missteps — the massive cases like Black's and the more minor offenses — erode the trust and confidence that citizens have with their government. Such harm must not go unpunished and North Carolina should continue its exhaustive investigations and vigorous pursuit of those in power who cut legal corners as much as those who commit to lawbreaking.
At the time of his 2007 conviction, Black held the dubious distinction of being the most powerful North Carolina politician to land behind bars. The eight-term House speaker was first found guilty for accepting thousands from chiropractors and was later convicted on charges of bribery and obstruction of justice. That second case stemmed from payments Black made to former state Rep. Michael Decker, who was paid to switch parties so Black might retain the speaker's gavel.
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