There aren’t many people who can say they spurred a standing ovation from lawmakers not long after posing for a mugshot.
Republican State Senator Fletcher Hartsell, from Concord, accomplished that strange feat on Tuesday.
Towards the end of the day’s session, Hartsell rose from his seat to ask for a point of personal privilege, a chance to freely address his fellow senators. His request was granted.
"Today has been a pretty tough day for me as many of you probably know."
Indeed, the news had broken hours earlier.
A Wake County grand jury indicted Hartsell on three counts of lying on campaign finance forms. And for using tens of thousands of dollars in donations to pay for personal expenses big and small. Maintenance for a commercial property he rents to a daycare. Premiums on his life and car insurance. Dinners with his wife and kids. Hartsell even charged his campaign for the shoes he wore, which, the practicing lawyer told investigators, were only needed because he is a state senator.
An investigation by the North Carolina State Board of Elections also found Hartsell’s campaign paid the Senator $345,000 over a 12 year span.
But none of this was brought up on the Senate floor yesterday.
Instead, Hartsell’s focus was this. "I would like to simply say, that the most long suffering person I know is sitting in the gallery." Which is perched high above the Senate floor. There were 30 seconds of silence as Hartsell composed himself. Then he continued. "My wife of 44 years," Another long pause followed. Hartsell's voice cracked before the now indicted senator could finish the introduction. "The love of my life, Tana."
Mrs. Hartsell was then asked to stand in order to be recognized. Senators responded with a standing ovation.
And that may be the last time a Hartsell is applauded in the General Assembly. After 26 years in the Senate, Hartsell is not seeking re-election. Besides the state charges, he is also under federal investigation.