NORTH CAROLINA (Charlotte Observer) - Former Republican Congressman Robin Hayes, swept up in one of North Carolina’s worst political corruption scandals, received a late-night pardon Tuesday from President Donald Trump.
In a deal with prosecutors to avoid trial and a potentially long prison term, Hayes, 75, pleaded guilty in 2019 to lying to the FBI in connection with the plot to bribe Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey.
Two others, including Durham billionaire businessman Greg Lindberg, were convicted in 2020 after a Charlotte trial.
Lindberg, one of the state’s biggest political donors, was considered a candidate for a Trump pardon, which never came.
Instead it went to Hayes, who at the time of his arrest was chairman of state Republican Party. He received probation in return for his cooperation with prosecutors.
Lindberg, on the other hand, has begun a seven-year sentence while he appeals his conviction.
“Your honor, I’m incredibly sorry,” Hayes told U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn at his sentencing, his voice breaking. “I’ve caused embarrassment, grief, (and) pain to members of my family. I apologize for what I’ve done. I’ll live with this for as long as I live.”
Now his record, at least, is clean.
‘MORE THAN HAPPY TO HELP’
Hayes is the grandson of the founder of one-time textile giant Cannon Mill, a former state legislator from Concord and the GOP’s 1996 nominee for governor.
In 2018, when he was state Republican chairman, Hayes said he was “more than happy to help” funnel a portion of up to $2 million from Lindberg to Causey in return for the insurance commissioner’s pledge to remove an assistant who was regulating some of Lindberg’s businesses.
Instead, Causey went to the FBI.
Trump’s list of 143 pardons also included former Charlotte businessman Patrick Swisher, who pleaded guilty and was sent to prison almost two decades ago in a federal tax evasion case.
Swisher, the founder of Swisher Hygiene, served about 18 months of his 2 1/2-year sentence. He later
Then, in 2002, founder Patrick Swisher was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison after pleading guilty in a federal tax evasion case. He is no longer involved with the company.
According to the White House, Swisher’s pardon had the support of Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop of Charlotte.
Hayes, who has completed his probation, was one of three former Republican congressman who received pardons shortly after midnight from Trump’s at the beginning of the president’s last day in office.
The others, Rick Renzi of Arizona and Duke Cunningham of California, had finished prison terms tied to corruption convictions.
Trump also pardoned former adviser Steve Bannon, the rapper Lil Wayne, and former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, imprisoned for 28 years on a corruption charge, according to the Washington Post.