Ruffin Poole, a key aide to former Gov. Mike Easley, asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in refusing to answer any questions of the State Board of Elections on Thursday.
Poole has become a central figure in the investigation against Easley. His lawyer, Joseph Zeszotarski Jr., at first said his client would not answer any questions of the board.
Chairman Larry Leake said that refusal would prompt the board to send Poole to jail for 30 days. Zeszotarski told Leake that if Poole was faced with going to jail or revealing why he would not testify, he would choose to reveal his reasons.
That's when Zeszotarski said Poole would not testify because he had asserted his right against incriminating himself.
Zeszotarski said he did not believe Leake had the right to compel Poole to testify or assert his right not to testify.
Zeszotarski said he intended to file a motion in court over Leake's actions.
When the board conducted an October hearing into Easley's campaign finance activity, Poole, a lawyer and aide to Easley, challenged his subpoena, citing attorney-client privilege.
The dispute went to a Superior Court judge and then the N.C. Court of Appeals.