The Court of Appeal rejected the sentences of the insurance tycoon from NC

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REALY, North Carolina – A federal appeals court on Wednesday overturned the 2020 conspiracy and bribery sentences of a major North Carolina political donor and his associate, saying the judge made a mistake in the jury’s instructions.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. District Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, overturned the sentences and ordered new trials against Greg E. Lindbergh and John D. Gray, Lindberg’s adviser. The two were among four accused of trying to give $ 1.5 million to Insurance Commissioner Mike Cosey’s campaign in exchange for removing an insurance official who would be in charge of regulating Lindbergh’s company.

A jury convicted Lindbergh and Gray of bribery and conspiracy to commit “fraud with honest services” – when a person seeks to deprive citizens of their right to honest services by a civil servant through bribery. Both received prison sentences. However, the appellate court ruled that the trial judge had given misleading instructions to the jurors before the hearing began.

U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn made the mistake of saying that the removal of a senior department official was an “official act,” a key element in reaching a conviction for fraud with honest services. Cogburn also made a mistake when he prevented the defense from presenting evidence to show that the reappointment of the deputy was not official, the appellate court said.

“We find that the district court inadmissibly removed an element of the crime from the hands of the jury and violated the rights of the defendant under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments,” Chief Justice Roger Gregory wrote in the prevailing opinion. “We cannot conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the verdict of the jurors would have been the same had it not been for the mistake.

The bribery sentence must also be overturned, Gregory writes, because Cogburn’s erroneous instruction “effortlessly entered the jury’s deliberations” to count the bribe. Senior Judges William Traxler and Henry Floyd agreed.

Lindbergh, 51, was sentenced to more than seven years in prison. He spent time in a prison in Alabama and is expected to be released in December 2026, according to the US Bureau of Prisons. Gray, 72, received a 2 1/2 year sentence. A desk list for John D. Gray says he is currently in a halfway house in Butner.

Lindbergh, whose company Global Growth Holdings contains many companies under its control, has given more than $ 5 million since 2016 to North Carolina’s candidate and party committees and independent spending groups. It was an insurance company called Lindberg, called Global Bankers, that prosecutors said would benefit from Lindbergh’s actions in finding a new regulator in Cosey’s office.

A Global Growth spokesman said he was pleased with Lindbergh and his family. Gray’s lawyer and a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte, who helped prosecute them, did not immediately comment after emailing requests. Federal appeals attorneys say Cogburn’s mistake is not serious enough to overturn the sentences.

Cowsey was not charged with wrongdoing. He alerted authorities and recorded conversations that served as the basis for the accusations against Lindbergh and Gray in 2019. Another accused is former US representative Robin Hayes, who was chairman of the Republican State Party at the time of the alleged crimes. Hayes accepted the plea deal and was sentenced to probation by Cogburn.

The federal government said Hayes agreed to help direct money to GOP state for Causey’s 2020 re-election campaign. Later, President Donald Trump pardoned Hayes. The fourth accused was acquitted in the trial.

Lindbergh faces other legal problems. A state judge ruled last month that Lindbergh had not complied with a 2019 agreement ordering him to relinquish control of insurers and other companies within his business empire.

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