Wake Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens chastised school board member Ron Margiotta today for his complaints about the handling of the fine in the Jim Black case and warned that the criticism could cost the school district money in the future.
Stephens was livid about the comments that Margiotta made in today's article about allowing Black to pay half of his $1 million fine by deeding land near Charlotte instead of providing cash to the school system.
According to today's online article by Rob Christensen, Stephens interrupted Black's sentencing to call in a school board attorney to his courtroom to be chewed out. The judge called the remarks "idiotic" and noted that he had not been obligated to levy any fine against Black.
"Criticism from those receiving the gift really kind of puts a chilling effect on judges and the courts system that are working really hard for their benefit," Stephens said. "It is not appreciated. I don't even understand it, quite frankly. In my 25 years on the bench, I have never seen anything quite like that. It makes no sense. It's a little bit idiotic."
"It's like giving your daughter a Toyota and her saying, 'Dad, I'd rather have a BMW," Stephens said. The judge said he would have to give serious thought to whether he would levy fines in the future that would benefit the Wake school system.
Stephens also added that he had the power to rescind the fine and make the school board return $500,000 in cash paid my Black and the property he signed over.
The school board's attorney told Stephens he doesn't think the full board would question the court's judgment in accepting the property in lieu of cash.
It will be interesting to see whether a majority of board members distance themselves from Margiotta at Tuesday's meeting to stay on Stephens' good side. Margiotta had thought, at least on Wednesday, that he had the backing of at least some other members for his complaints.
After the verbal fireworks, Stephens sentenced Black so that his state time is concurrent with his federal time. He also imposed the minimum time of 11 to 14 months on Black.
Stephens did say that Black would have to serve the state time if he is successful in persuading federal officials to release him early. He's not set to get out of federal prison until 2012, which would be well after his concurrent state sentence ends.