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Black Contends He Didn't Enrich Himself

Former North Carolina House Speaker Jim Black says he pleaded guilty to a corruption charge to get his case resolved because his legal bills were around $1 million. Black sat down this week with WRAL-TV for his first interview since being released from federal prison last fall. Black, a Democrat from Matthews, served three years in federal prison for taking money in exchange for political favors, though Black contends that he "never, ever did anything for money in my pocket." But, he still benefited from the scheme, as the WRAL story notes: Federal authorities said he solicited at least $25,000 in illegal campaign contributions from chiropractors between 2000 and 2005 to help shepherd legislation helpful to the profession through the General Assembly. Cash payments were made to Black in men's rooms, private clubs and elsewhere, and he deposited the money into his personal account and never reported the contributions to elections officials, authorities said. The state charges stemmed from efforts to get the chiropractors to downplay the donations to a grand jury and from $50,000 paid to former Forsyth County Rep. Michael Decker to switch to the Democratic Party in 2003. The move helped Black retain a share of the speaker position in an evenly divided House. Black's guilty plea was an Alford plea, in which a defendant doesn't admit guilt, but admits there is sufficient evidence for a conviction. "There are some things that I just finally had to agree to to get it over with," he told WRAL. "I spent over $1 million in legal fees, so I told my lawyer to make a deal." Black, 76, has regained his optometry license and plans to practice with his daughter. He's also writing a book about North Carolina politics.