Politics & Government

Wake County case against Sen. Hartsell awaits outcome of a federal investigation

Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, left, reads his indictment with attorney Wade Smith as they wait to appear before a magistrate at the Wake County Detention Center on Tuesday, June 28, 2016 in Raleigh, N.C. Hartsell was indicted by the Wake County grand jury on allegations that he signed false campaign finance reports.
Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, left, reads his indictment with attorney Wade Smith as they wait to appear before a magistrate at the Wake County Detention Center on Tuesday, June 28, 2016 in Raleigh, N.C. Hartsell was indicted by the Wake County grand jury on allegations that he signed false campaign finance reports. rwillett@newsobserver.com

Wake County prosecutors say a date for state Sen. Fletcher Hartsell’s criminal trial has been removed from the court calendar pending a separate federal investigation.

Hartsell, a Concord Republican and the Senate’s longest-serving member, is scheduled to return to the General Assembly on Monday, less than two months after a Wake County grand jury charged him with filing false campaign finance reports.

The 69-year-old Hartsell began that day, June 28, chairing a legislative committee hearing. At midday he turned himself in to the Wake County magistrate’s office. By late afternoon, Hartsell stood on the Senate floor choking up during a speech honoring his wife. Senators then filled the chamber with applause as members from both parties offered public support.

Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman now says Hartsell’s case has been temporarily removed from the Wake County Superior Court calendar.

“He remains charged with three felony counts of claiming false campaign reports,” she said, “but we are in a holding pattern pending the conclusion of a federal investigation.”

According to Freeman, Hartsell’s case was removed last month after discussions with Hartsell’s attorney, Wade Smith of Raleigh.

“It is difficult for us to move forward until I know what direction the federal prosecutors will take — if any,” Freeman said.

Smith said he is currently discussing the case with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of North Carolina.

Hartsell deferred comment on his case to Smith. But he did say he will attend Monday’s Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee, where the draft agenda has him leading a discussion on staffing nurses in public schools.

“Senator Hartsell is such a dedicated and wonderful public servant,” Smith said. Hartsell has said he plans to finish his 13th term this year but is not seeking re-election.

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