All you can do in the Fletcher Hartsell case is shake your head and say ain’t it a shame.
Hartsell, a state legislator from Cabarrus County for 25 years, was sentenced to eight months in prison this week after pleading guilty to using about $210,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses.
Crooked politicians aren’t exactly a novelty anymore, but it’s especially disappointing to see Hartsell on that list. A Davidson and UNC Law grad, Hartsell, 70, was long one of the more intelligent and thoughtful legislators in Raleigh. For years he was ranked the most effective Republican senator when Democrats controlled the chamber. He chaired a Senate judiciary committee even when Democrats were in charge.
He earned respect from both sides of the aisle. He was an early supporter of the raise-the-age legislation that finally passed the House last week. And he was, ironically, a devout protector of the taxpayer, successfully pushing an effort to require a government performance audit to evaluate state government’s efficiency.
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He always seemed like one of the good ones in public service, in it for the right reasons. Sadly, somewhere, he got off track.
Raise the Age
Speaking of that raise-the-age legislation, the House voted to approve it 104-8 on Wednesday. North Carolina is the last state to treat 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system. Those accused of violent felonies would still be treated as adults, but many crimes would be handled in juvenile court.
That’s important. It does far more harm than good to put teens in the adult system for many offenses. All but about 3 percent of convictions of 16- and 17-year-olds are for misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies. Other states that have made the change have found that juveniles are less likely to commit crimes again. Liberal and conservative groups alike backed the legislation.
The bill now goes to the Senate. That chamber has included a similar provision in its budget bill but didn’t include funding for it because under its plan the change wouldn’t take place until 2020.
The fix is long overdue. House and Senate negotiators need to make it happen.