White-Collar Crime

Young Lawyer's Soaring Career Is Interrupted by Federal Indictment

After he graduated from a North Carolina law school in 1998, Charles Ruffin Poole’s legal career clearly was on an upward trajectory for which the sky seemed to be the limit.

Hired to work in the state attorney general’s office, he quickly gained a much higher political profile when former attorney general Mike Easley, was elected governor after reportedly helping to raise funds for his boss’s campaign. In January 2001, at age 28, with two years of practice experience, he became the new governor’s deputy press secretary. A month later, he was promoted to a special assistant post and soon became known as the governor’s go-to guy in his role as special counsel. When Easley left office early this year after serving two terms as governor and joined McGuireWoods, Poole became a partner there, too.

Now, however, the 37-year-old lawyer’s stratospheric career is threatened by his federal indictment yesterday on corruption charges in Raleigh, N.C., according to the Associated Press and the News & Observer. Poole, who left his McGuireWoods job a month ago, is accused of bribery, extortion and money-laundering concerning allegations that he personally benefited from coastal developments approved by state regulators.

A copy of his indictment (PDF) provided by the newspaper details his legal career and his role, within Easley’s office, as the go-to guy for political supporters who needed help from the governor. Poole’s family has operated a successful construction business for decades, it notes, alleging that payments made to the business by an unidentified “financier” and payments made by the business to Poole violated the law.

By accepting and failing to disclose personal benefits, including cash and plane trips, in connection with his work as a state official, the indictment contends, Poole violated federal law requiring a government official to provide honest services.

In response to the indictment, Easley has expressed confidence in Poole and says that he cannot imagine he would knowingly have violated the law.

Additional and related coverage:

Beaufort Observer: “The indictments begin. Easley’s legal counsel, Ruffin Poole is the first”

Investigations (News & Observer): “Poole out at McGuireWoods”

WTVD: “Former Easley aide indicted”

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