LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- A Wake County grand jury indicted Monday former campaign workers and a donor of North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue as part of an investigation into previously undisclosed flights leading up to her 2008 election victory.

Grand jurors handed up indictments in state court against former Perdue campaign finance director Peter Reichard of Greensboro; Juleigh Sitton of Morganton, until recently the director of the governor's Western Office in Asheville; and Trawick H. Buzzy Stubbs Jr., a former law partner with Perdue's late first husband in New Bern.

Stubbs and Sitton were each charged with one count each of filing false campaign reports and obstruction of justice, according to the indictments, while Reichard was charged with one count of obstruction of justice.

The charges come more than a year after Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said he would investigate payments of air travel for the campaign following a State Board of Elections probe of Perdue's campaign committee.

The indictments accuse Sitton and Reichard of hiding that Sitton was being paid an additional $32,000 -- $2,000 a month for 16 months -- to work full-time for Perdue's campaign through outside money that was funneled through a merchant banking firm operated by Reichard called Tryon Capital Partners. Reichard solicited and accepted money from Morganton business owner Charles M. Fulenwider, according to the indictment. Fulenwider has not been charged.

Stubbs is accused of contributing or paying expenses totaling more than $28,000 through his law firm by paying for flights for the benefit of the Bev Perdue Committee until Nov. 1, 2008, his indictment said. Stubbs prepared documents in October 2008 that purported the flights had been contributed to the state Democratic Party when they actually had gone for the committee, documents said.

The indictments come at an inopportune time for Perdue, who is gearing up for next year's re-election bid while struggling to overcome a third consecutive year of a poor economic picture in North Carolina. This year, she's also taken her political lumps from Republicans now in charge of the General Assembly. GOP leaders managed to override her veto of the Legislature's two-year budget.

Now Perdue will have to defend herself on the flights in the court of public opinion. Perdue declined comment on the indictments but said in a prepared statement her campaign committee has cooperated with Willoughby's investigation.

I will, however, reiterate what I made clear at the beginning of the investigation, and what the investigation has confirmed: as a citizen, a candidate for public office, and an elected official, I have strived to follow the rules and laws, she said. I am proud of my record, and I remain sharply focused on strengthening our schools, creating jobs and moving North Carolina forward.

Reichard attorney Hart Miles said his client is prepared to go to trial but would like to have the case resolve without a long trial. I urge everyone to withhold judgment until the case is concluded and the facts are known, Miles said.

Willoughby's office began investigating payments of air travel for the campaign last year following a State Board of Elections probe of Perdue's campaign committee. The board fined The Bev Perdue Committee $30,000 in August 2010 for failing to report more than 40 flights -- many by wealthy donors -- leading up to her winning gubernatorial run in 2008.

The Wake district attorney has said that Perdue wasn't the focus of the investigation.

Perdue's campaign spokesman blamed the problems at the time on inadequate and sloppy monitoring efforts while Perdue was lieutenant governor and a gubernatorial candidate. Meanwhile, the governor hired two prominent Raleigh defense attorneys, but she, her campaign and one of the attorneys said the governor had done nothing improper or illegal.

In February, a Wake County grand jury indicted Robert Lee Caldwell of Morganton man on a felony count of obstruction of justice over allegations he deceived Perdue's campaign by hiding the source of money used to pay for a campaign flight. He had been re-appointed by Perdue to serve as a trustee at Western Piedmont Community College in 2010. The case has not been resolved.

The board also found other 2008 gubernatorial candidates -- including likely repeat 2012 Republican challenger Pat McCrory -- had flight reporting issues, too, but the panel declined to fine those campaigns. Board Chairman Larry Leake said at the time the magnitude of any of those violations weren't as great.

Perdue's campaign accepted the $30,000 fine, but pointed out it reported the previously undisclosed flights after a self-audit of the committee's books.

Perdue's problems with unreported flights follows the 2010 conviction of former Democratic Gov. Mike Easley on a single felony charge of filing a false campaign finance report in which he accepted responsibility for failing to disclose a 2006 flight on a private helicopter. The count, which required a $1,000 fine, concluded sweeping investigations into his personal and professional life after he left office.

State Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes said Monday's indictments remind Perdue of Easley and predicted that voters will remove her from office next November.

The people of North Carolina deserve better, Hayes said.

Read or Share this story: http://www.wcnc.com/story/news/local/2014/06/28/10759846/