By federal sentencing standards, Ruffin Poole caught a break Tuesday when U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle gave him a one-year prison term for hiding $55,000 in profits he reaped as part of insider deals that allowed him to benefit from his position as a top aide to former Gov. Mike Easley.
The sentence was one day above the minimum for a crime that Poole admitted committing in order to get more than 50 other charges dropped, and spared him at least another six months in prison. The penalty could have been harsher still if Boyle decided to treat the income tax evasion as a bribery case.
But when it came time to exit the federal courthouse, some of the roughly 30 supporters, nearly all of them in suits and ties, acted as if Poole were the victim of a kangaroo court. They formed a wedge in front of Poole and his wife, pushing and grabbing reporters and cameramen who sought to interview him as the couple made their way to a waiting SUV.
U.S. Attorney George Holding said he's seen better behavior from the families and supporters of violent criminals sentenced to much stiffer prison terms.
"In 10 years here I've never seen behavior like that," Holding said.