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James_B._Black

James B. Black

Dr. James "Jim" Boyce Black (born March 25, 1935) is a former Democratic member of the North Carolina General Assembly who represented the state's 100th House district, including constituents in Mecklenburg County. An optometrist from Matthews, North Carolina, Black was elected to 11 (non-consecutive) terms in the House of Representatives and served as Speaker of the House from January 1999 through the end of 2006. He is tied with Liston B. Ramsey as longest-serving Speaker in state history.

Black earned an O.D. from the Southern College of Optometry. He served in the United States Navy and in the United States Naval Reserve.

Fall from power

In 2005 and 2006, Black was linked to a series of scandals involving, among other things, the party-switching Rep. Michael P. Decker, and the North Carolina lottery, established the previous year. The proceedings led to convictions for several involved figures, including Decker, media and public relations consultant, Kevin L. Geddings and political aide Meredith Norris. Decker testified under oath that he instigated a bribery scheme of which Black was alleged to be a "co-conspirator". Black has consistently denied those allegations.

Although Black was not indicted while serving as speaker, the situation drew ire from the North Carolina Republican Party, which involved the scandal in their November election campaigns.

Black was re-elected in November 2006, by only 30 votes, over Republican political novice Hal Jordan. Meanwhile, Democrats increased their majority in the House.

In December 2006, Black announced that he would not seek another term as Speaker. That was followed in January 2007 by his announcement that he would not run for re-election to the House in 2008.

Black pleaded guilty to a federal charge of public corruption on February 15, 2007, a felony carrying a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He admitted to accepting funds from chiropractors while their professional group had legislation pending in the NC General Assembly. As a result, he resigned from the General Assembly on February 14, 2007.

Federal prosecutors have said the plea deal with Black involves his assistance in their continued investigation into political corruption in North Carolina government.

Black's agreement with federal prosecutors did not protect him from state prosecution. Indeed, days after his federal plea, he entered into a separate Alford plea agreement with the district attorney of Wake County, the capital county, on separate charges.

On July 11, 2007, Black was sentenced by Judge Terrence Boyle to five years, three months in prison, three years of probation, and a $50,000 fine. Black was later sentenced in state court to eight to ten months in prison and a $1 million fine.

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