Former candidate charged

Published 9:38 am Saturday, June 13, 2009

FRANKLIN—Former mayoral candidate Ellis Crum has been ordered to appear in court to face three misdemeanor charges of failing to pay penalties he incurred for filing campaign finance reports late.

Crum, of Queens Lane in Franklin, was served Wednesday and has been ordered to appear in Southampton County General District Court at 8:30 a.m. on June 29. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

“There was never anything that insinuated or pointed out that this could become a criminal offense or that the fines would rise to the nature of $1,000 (per offense),” Crum said Friday. “The state did not do due diligence. They had a responsibility that they did not hold up to.”

Crum said the state Board of Elections has imposed more than $2,800 in fines against him over the late reports.

“I don’t know where the harm has come in it,” Crum said. “I don’t know who the victim is in this crime. This idea of going to court strictly is a matter of giving the state the chance to explain itself, and if the court deems that I need to pay the fine, I’ll pay the fine.”

He added, “I’m in no way saying that we did not have this issue. What I am suggesting is that I’m not sure the penalty fits the crime. We’ll just let reasonable people — judges and juries — work that out.”

Southampton County Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Cooke was out of the office Friday and could not be reached for comment. Cooke declined to comment on his office’s probe on the issue in February.

Registrar Sandy Holloman’s office disclosed in February that the state electoral board sent letters to Crum three times in 2008 — on April 16, June 20 and July 17 — alerting him that his campaign, the Committee to Elect H. Ellis Crum, had failed to file finance reports on time for scheduled reporting dates. Holloman turned the matter over to Cooke on Jan. 9.

Crum declined to say whether he would plead guilty or not guilty to the charges when he appears in court on June 29.

“We’ll know when I go to court,” he said.