LaRoque hires one of NC’s top criminal defense attorneys

State Rep. Stephen LaRoque, a Kinston Republican, appears to have hired Joe Cheshire, a Raleigh defense attorney known for his criminal defense work.

Cheshire was out of his office and could not be reached Thursday for comment. It’s not known what the extent of his representation is, but Cheshire sent a letter on behalf of LaRoque to House Speaker Thom Tillis on Wednesday. He states in the letter that his firm has been hired by LaRoque.

In the letter, Cheshire asked Tillis, the House’s GOP leader, to not refer the matter to an ethics commission. He said the media reports on LaRoque’s two non-profits do not warrant enough evidence for an investigation and that Wednesday’s request by House Minority Leader Joe Hackney to open up an investigation was “partisan political bait.”

“The mere existence of media reports ‘appearing’to say something falls far below any standard for convening special investigatory commissions,” Cheshire wrote. “If we as a society begin to appoint ‘independent commissions’ to investigate ‘media’ accounts of politicians, there will be no end to these commission hearings.”

Click here to read the Cheshire’s entire letter.

Tillis asked the bipartisan Legislative Ethics Committee to decide if a probe into LaRoque’s federally-funded non-profits falls under the scope of the committee, Tillis states in a separate letter he sent to Hackney. Tillis also asks Hackney to provide more specific allegations of misconduct.

Click here to read Tillis’ letter to Hackney.

LaRoque, a Kinston Republican serving as a member of Tillis’ leadership team, has faced tough questions in recent months about two economic development non-profits he runs, the East Carolina Development Company and Piedmont Development Company. The non-profits, both based out of Kinston, have taken in $8 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture as part of the agency’s Intermediary Relending Program that aims to combat poverty by loaning money to struggling entrepreneurs in rural areas. Neither non-profit has received money from the state.

An August investigation by N.C. Policy Watch, “Public money, personal gains,” found the federally-funded-charities paid the sole employee Laroque generously, as high as $195,000 a year, without the knowledge of several board members; his board of directors included his wife and brother; and the non-profit gave loans of federal money to close associates of LaRoque – including his wife (his girlfriend at the time); two fellow GOP legislators and his lawyer.

NC Policy Watch also found a for-profit company owned by the lawmaker, LaRoque Management Group, took a $200,000, no interest loan in July 2010 from the non-profit, a potential violation of IRS tax laws that prevent non-profit insiders from personally benefiting from their charities.

LaRoque failed to report the loan on the non-profit’s most recent tax return, despite questions that specifically asked about personal benefits from the charity’s coffers.

6 Comments

  1. david esmay

    November 17, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    First of all the ethics commottee is not a special commission, but an existing one, and acts as a peer review of predetermined ethical standards. Secondly, Laroque was forced to drop his defamation suit, that means a judge determined the accusations where true, therefore defamation didnot exist. Why does he need a criminal lawyer if in fact he has not bridged acceptable standards involving the operation of his non-profits? Bottom line is, he lawyered up in expectation of IRS and USDA investigations on his illegal activities. These allegations don’t “appear”, they “are”.

  2. Frances Jenkins

    November 17, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    He is the attorney for Bev Perdue.

  3. jlp75

    November 18, 2011 at 7:22 am

    Frances,

    Not sure if you read the same article but I did not see any mention of Bev Perdue. This is about Stephen LaRoque. Please stay on topic.

  4. david esmay

    November 18, 2011 at 8:30 am

    Frances, if you were a real person, I’d say you were insane. But, since you’re probably just an intern at Civitas pretending to be a poor old lady, it doesn’t matter.

  5. jlp75

    November 18, 2011 at 9:36 am

    David,

    That is a good point. I have often wondered if Civitas, Locke, etc. post some of these comments on this and other boards to implant their ideology into the public dialogue. The N&O and WRAL message boards seem to have a heavy right wing presence as well. Hate to sound conspiracy theorist but their mission after all is to be right wing opinion generation machines.

  6. Frances Jenkins

    November 19, 2011 at 4:34 am

    Call the Governor’s office and ask them. When caught in your own web, you begin to accuse and make personal attacks. David, mental illness is a serious issue. I am shocked at how you have no respect for people with problems and how you always use that as a put down.Shame on you. I do not know Civitas but I do know David and jlp75 are scare of the truth.