Report: Ex-North Carolina House Speaker to Resign, Plead Guilty to Corruption Charge

State Rep. Jim Black, who stepped down as House speaker amid a federal corruption investigation, will resign from office and plead guilty to a felony charge, a newspaper reported Tuesday.

The Charlotte Observer reported on its Web site that Black's attorney, Ken Bell, confirmed that the Democrat will plead guilty Thursday to one count of accepting illegal gratuities.

Neither Bell nor Black immediately returned a call from The Associated Press seeking comment.

The charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine up to $250,000. Because state law bans felons from holding office, Black would have to resign his House seat. He represents a district in suburban Charlotte.

In late 2005, a federal grand jury began looking into Black's campaign finances and his connections to the lottery and video poker industries. Black's office has provided thousands of pages of documents to grand jurors, and dozens of lobbyists, political allies and others with ties to Black or his campaign have appeared at the federal courthouse.

The State Board of Elections ruled in March that Black's campaign illegally accepted corporate contributions and checks with the payee line left blank. His campaign later forfeited at least $16,875, and the board asked state prosecutors to decide whether Black should be charged criminally with breaking state campaign finance laws.

It wasn't clear Tuesday whether Black's reported federal plea would resolve the state issue, nor was it clear exactly what the federal charge stemmed from.

In December, the 71-year-old Black announced he would not seek a fifth term as speaker. At the time, he said he did not plan to resign his seat and dismissed a suggestion he wasn't running again for speaker because he was worried about a possible federal indictment.