Former state employees association leader Dana Cope made his first appearance in Wake County Superior Court Monday on charges that he misappropriated $570,000 from the employees he led for 15 years.
Monday’s appearance was brief and uneventful. Cope, dressed in a tan suit and his trademark cowboy boots, said nothing.
Cope has not formally answered the charges and is likely to do so at the next scheduled hearing, in October.
His lawyer, Roger Smith Jr., told the court he was representing the former director of the State Employees Association of North Carolina. Cope left the courtroom immediately and declined to talk, referring all questions to Smith.
“He’s hanging in there, doing the best he can,” Smith said afterwards. “The criminal process is tough on every defendent sitting in there, regardless of their charge. It weighs on you, it weighs on your family and it weighs on your friends. He’s not alone, everyone in there is going through a tough time.”
Cope’s troubles began after The News & Observer reported that Cope used SEANC checks to pay for landscaping at his home and flight lessons, and used SEANC credit cards to pay for electronics, expensive clothes and eyebrow waxing.
Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman started an investigation the following day. Two weeks ago a Wake County grand jury indicted Cope, 46, of Raleigh on two felony charges of obtaining property by false pretenses. The charges could carry as much as 15 years in state prison.