Ex-lottery commissioner's appeal denied

The Charlotte ObserverMay 20, 2008 

— A federal appeals court Monday denied former North Carolina lottery commissioner Kevin Geddings' appeal of his conviction on public corruption charges.

Geddings, a Charlotte-based consultant who once advised a governor and legislators across the Carolinas, will remain in a federal prison camp in Georgia until 2010 unless he successfully appeals to a larger appeals court panel or the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ruling means that, for now, the two most prominent figures tied to the scandal surrounding the lottery's creation three years ago will remain in prison. Former House Speaker Jim Black pleaded guilty to an unrelated corruption charge last year and was sentenced to five years in a federal prison camp in Pennsylvania.

A federal jury convicted Geddings of fraud for failing to disclose thousands of dollars in advertising and consulting work he performed for a lottery company in the years before his appointment to the lottery commission.

Geddings' attorneys did not return telephone messages Monday. Geddings' fall from the lottery commission in 2005 soiled the reputation of the newly created game before the first ticket was sold and escalated a federal investigation that brought down other political players, including Black.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Va., rejected arguments by Geddings' attorney that Geddings did not commit fraud when he omitted his work for lottery company Scientific Games on his state ethics form. The form asked for information on possible conflicts of interest.

The judges highlighted evidence from Geddings' trial in the fall of 2006 and unanimously wrote that he was concealing $163,000 in payments and that he took actions to benefit the company while serving as a lottery commissioner.

"A reasonable jury could find beyond a reasonable doubt that Geddings deprived the citizens of North Carolina of his honest services," the judges wrote.

The judges also concluded that the extra-long prison sentence imposed by the trial judge was justified. Geddings received four years -- seven more than sentencing guidelines called for. That penalty was supported by the need for deterrence and the damage done to the lottery, the judges wrote.

"In light of all the facts of this case," the judges wrote, "we conclude that the [trial] court did not abuse its discretion."

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