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Letter to the Editor: The real question: Why protect corrupt public officials?

The December 16 column by James Payne asked “Why treat business people as if they are drug dealers?”

He references HB800 and SB565. These bills are dead as neither one passed in 2013. They are ineligible in 2014. However, two bills are of interest.

SB683, Section 21 added human trafficking to drug trafficking as crimes for which a statewide investigative grand jury may be convened. That is now law.

HB908, “White Collar Crime Investigation” passed the House on a vote of 116-0. Sponsored by Rep. Tom Murry, it provides for an investigative grand jury in cases of bribery, obstruction of justice, buying and selling of offices, failing to discharge official duties, public officers or employees benefiting from public contracts, embezzlement, obtaining property by false pretenses, extortion, forgery and counterfeiting.

The real question is why we should protect corrupt public officials and white collar criminals more than drug dealers. Is it equitable to send a drug dealer to prison for ten years and let the white collar offender skate? The damage done to our economic systems during the past six years has been devastating to those who have lost homes, retirement and life savings. Rarely do investigators have the tools to hold the culprits accountable for the destruction they have caused. The masterminds of these schemes often avoid detection and the payment of restitution while victims suffer for the rest of their lives.

Public officials who enrich themselves at public expense leave taxpayers to foot the bill. HB908 makes it feasible to get information from financial institutions and to compel low level participants to cooperate and provide information about the real culprits who have benefitted handsomely from their crimes.

The Conference of District Attorneys and most members of the General Assembly have been asking for this legislation for years.

 

Rep. Paul Stam

Speaker Pro Tem

NC General Assembly

 

Colon Willoughby

District Attorney for Wake County

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