AP, April 7, 2008
Former Rep. Thomas Wright was sentenced Monday to roughly six years to eight years in prison after a jury found him guilty of mishandling thousands of dollars in charitable contributions and fraudulently obtaining a $150,000 loan.
Deputies immediately took Wright into custody after Wake County Superior Court Judge Henry Hight imposed the sentence and rejected a request to allow the former lawmaker to remain free during an appeal. Wright winked at his wife Joyce as he left the courtroom.
Jurors convicted Wright on three felony fraud charges, concluding he misused or mishandled donations from two companies totaling $7,400 and used a bogus letter to take out a loan to build a museum commemorating Wilmington’s 1898 race riots. He faced four counts, but jurors decided he did not mishandle a $1,500 donation from AT&T Corp.
“This is just another unpleasant chapter in what we’ve been dealing with for the last two to three years,” said Wake County prosecutor Colon Willoughby. “I think he just forgot who he was supposed to be serving.”
Harris said it was unfair to try Wright so soon after he was kicked out of office for ethical misconduct. Wright’s colleagues in the House voted overwhelmingly last month to expel Wright from office, following the recommendation of a special legislative ethics panel that investigated allegations almost identical to those Wright faced in court.
Once he finally took the stand last week, [Wright] blamed his mistakes on sloppy record keeping and insisted he never showed the letter to a bank loan officer, a key element of that fraud charge. He also said his legal troubles began after he failed to support the re-election of Democratic Sen. Julia Boseman of Wilmington in the November 2006 election.
[Editor’s Note: Earlier stories about Representative Wright and his charges of “racism” can be read starting here.]