News: CJ Exclusives

Ballances Hear Their Sentences

Blame woes on Republican prosecutor and Republican judge

Former First District Congressman Frank Ballance received a four-year prison sentence yesterday for his personal usage of state money, which he had obtained in grants for his non-profit organization when he was a leader in the State Senate.

His son, state District Judge Garey Ballance, was also sentenced to nine months in federal prison for failing to file tax returns. Both could serve time together at a facility in Butner. Frank Ballance must report by Dec. 30, and after serving his time he will have three more years of supervised probation.

After leaving a federal courthouse in Elizabeth City, Garey Ballance blamed his woes on “a Republican prosecutor and a Republican judge.” Frank Ballance said U.S. Attorney Frank Whitney and assistant U.S. Attorney Dennis Duffy exaggerated the severity of his crimes. Both Ballances are Democrats.

“There was some misspent money,” Frank Ballance told reporters yesterday. “That’s all this case was about. There’s never been a grand conspiracy.”

The leader of the state Republican Party said that justice was served with the sentencing.

“It is a shame someone trusted by the people would betray that trust for his own personal gain and the gain of his family members.” said state GOP chairman Ferrell Blount in a statement. “The only silver lining to this episode is that he is no longer in a position of public trust.”

State Democratic Party spokesman Schorr Johnson did not provide a statement on Ballance’s sentencing before the publication deadline for this article.

U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle issued the sentences in Elizabeth City. Both Frank and Garey Ballance had pleaded guilty to the charges against them.

In September 2004, a federal grand jury indicted both Ballances. Frank Ballance was charged with diverting more than $100,000 in state funds meant for the John A. Hyman Memorial Foundation. The funds went to his son, daughter, mother, church, and law firm while he was a state senator. He was also chairman of the foundation.

Garey Ballance was charged with failure to file a federal income tax return for the year 2000, a misdemeanor that had a maximum punishment of a year in prison and a $100,000 fine. He failed to report receiving $20,000 from the foundation as well. He used the money as a down payment on a sports utility vehicle.

His future as a Warren County district court judge is unclear. Running unopposed, he was re-elected to the bench in November 2004. Under the terms of a plea agreement, Garey Ballance could continue as a judge. Shortly after his admission of guilt in March, the North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission said it would review his situation.

In November 2004 Frank Ballance pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and money laundering. According to the terms of his plea agreement, he could have received up to five years in prison. He resigned his congressional seat last year, citing health problems.

“The most important thing is Frank Ballance leaving office,” said state Republican Party chief of staff Bill Peaslee, “because he was a person who couldn’t be trusted with public funds.”

Don Carrington is executive editor of Carolina Journal. Associate editor Paul Chesser contributed reporting for this article.