Jim Black is Back: What He Lost and What's Left
MATTHEWS, N.C. - Jim Black was delivered to a halfway house in Charlotte on Monday after serving roughly four years of a five year sentence in federal prison. He'll remain under supervision until sometime in March, according to his attorney.
Black accepted $29,000 in bribes while he was the Speaker of the House. In addition to hard time, Black, a Matthews optometrist by trade, was ordered to pay a one million dollar fine.
Going into prison, he reportedly owned about four million dollars worth of local real estate. Records show his family still owns, at least, an Uptown property on South Tryon Street, Black's former practice in Matthews and the family's long time home in Matthews.
Monday, his home was decorated with yellow ribbons and balloons. A neighbor down the street even posted a big "welcome home" sign in his front yard. That neighbor says he's known the Black family since the 70's and that Jim Black never deserved to spend time in federal prison.
"Anyone who says he didn't deserve this really doesn't understand the facts,” says Jeff Taylor, a contributing editor at Carolina Journal and author of the Meck Deck blog. Taylor says Black's attempt at paying off his million dollar fine has left Mecklenburg County tax payers without justice. "He paid 1/2 million dollars of that and then put up land worth $150,000 according to tax records,” says Taylor.
That would mean Black still owes $350,000. But his camp claims the nine acres were worth at least half a million dollars, a value that was reportedly never independently verified.
Taylor calls it part of the "ongoing criminal conspiracy in Raleigh." He says, "I don't think there's any way to rectify it because we had a judge, district attorneys, basically the entire judicial system of North Carolina say, 'Jim, that's good enough.'"
75-year-old Black may have retained his wealth but has still lost something he may never be able to regain. Matthews resident Doris Hall says, "I should hope that he never runs for public office again. I should hope that he never be allowed to have the public trust."
As for that parcel of land Black offered up to settle his half a million dollar balance, tax time will tell. If it's really worth $500,000 the appropriate taxes will have to be paid on it.