Ex-speaker agrees to limit travel, abstain from alcohol

The Charlotte ObserverJune 22, 2007 

— Former House Speaker Jim Black has agreed to limit his travel outside Western North Carolina and to not drink alcohol as he waits for a likely prison term.

The new restrictions were described in an agreement with his probation officer, Jerusha Marsh of Charlotte, signed June 15. U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Boyle agreed Wednesday, and the one-page document was filed in court Thursday.

Black, a Matthews Democrat, may travel to court appearances and, with permission, to medical appointments in other parts of North Carolina. The initial conditions of his release in February -- after pleading guilty to a federal corruption charge -- allowed Black to travel internationally with permission.

Also under the new conditions, Black cannot drink alcohol and must submit to testing for alcohol and other prohibited substances. He was previously required to avoid only excessive use of alcohol.

The agreement gives no reason for the changes. Marsh declined to comment. Black and his attorney Ken Bell could not be reached for comment. Prosecutors also could not be reached.

Raleigh defense lawyer Wade Smith said the federal probation office conducts an extensive investigation before a defendant is sentenced, looking at matters such as health and habits. "It's a blueprint of a person's life," Smith said.

Black, who served a record-tying eight years as speaker, is to be sentenced July 11 by Boyle. He faces a maximum 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines. He is also due to be sentenced in state court.

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