Greene Resigns as Sheriff
At this morning’s hearing to determine whether he would remain sheriff, Jody Greene resigned.
The move came after a 20-minute recess for consultation turned into an almost-45 minute meeting between Greene’s attorney Michael Mills, District Attorney Jon David, and Superior Court Judge Doug Sasser. Back in open court, Mills emphasized that Greene denies all the allegations, and was only submitting his resignation for the term “that began in 2018.”
The move does not affect Greene’s status as a candidate on the Nov. 2 ballot.
The move to oust Greene began when Jason Soles, a former captain who is the Democrat candidate for sheriff, released a 2019 telephone conversation where Greene used racial epithets and vulgar language. In the recording, which has not been authenticated, Greene is heard to insist that black members of the sheriff’s office be fired, since he thought they were spying for former Sheriff Lewis Hatcher. The recording was made while Soles was managing day to day operations at the sheriff’s office while the courts determined Greene’s residency status. Greene narrowly defeated Hatcher in the 2018 sheriff’s race.
Soles said that law enforcement, county commissioners, the State Bureau of Investigation refused to listen to the recording, so he released it to a Wilmington media outlet. Four commissioners and the District Attorney’s office said they were never approached by Soles. The SBI reportedly found out about the recordings after David filed a request for an investigation of the sheriff’s office. Gov. Roy Cooper, in a statement condemning the language, said state officials only learned about the recording through news stories in October.
On Oct. 4, David filed a petition to have Greene removed by the courts based on corruption, maladministration and failure to discharge the duties of a law enforcement officer. He was suspended by the county commissioners, and retired Highway Patrol Trooper William “Bill” Rogers appointed interim sheriff. Oct. 6.
On Monday, Mills initially asked for a continuance, since David filed a 50-plus page amendment to the protest this past Friday. Mills said that it was unfair for the defense not to be able to completely review the additional affidavits and a 989-page report by the SBI before Monday’s hearing. The original petition was filed Oct. 4.
Sasser noted that David had informed Mills and the court that the amendment was coming, and that procedures for removing a sheriff are different than a conventional criminal case. The law requires that a hearing be held in the first available Superior session following the filing of the petition.
“In these types of cases,” Sasser said, “the public safety has to be considered. Time is important.” David said he was sensitive to the fact that the amendment was filed Friday, but that it could not be avoided.
“This was not an attempt to unfairly apply the rules,” David asserted to the court. “We were moving paragraphs and adding information an hour before it was filed.” David also said that there are still witnesses coming forward wanting to give statements about the allegations against Greene, and more evidence is being reviewed.”
Mills insisted that the court should grant a continuance, and asked to reschedule the hearing for Oct. 31 or Nov. 7. Sasser refused, citing the number of witnesses, investigators and audience members who were in the courtroom or waiting to testify.
“Out of concern for the public safety, the large crowds and the disruption to the court system,” Sasser said, “and the fact that the statute requires this type of hearing to be held in the first session after the filing of the petition, I am refusing that request.”
Sasser then called for a 20-minute recess that extended to almost 45 minutes before Greene’s defense team and the district attorney staff returned to the courtroom.
Mills noted that Greene still vigorously denies all allegations in the filing, but was willing to resign “the term that started in 2018”. David said the resignation was “acceptable,” despite the fact that, he said, he had a witnesses ready to go on the stand “right now.”
David then noted the reasons the General Statutes allows for a sheriff to be removed from office, the third of which is resignation.
“Since we have a Number Three in this case,” David said, “the law is moot. There no longer a need to hold a hearing to remove him from office.”
Protestors gathered outside the courthouse calling for Greene to be removed from office Monday. Several loudly told the crowd to “Don’t let them fool you – Greene is still on the ballot!” While others chanted “Black Lives Matter”. At least one chanted the words “Black Bastards Vote,” a reference to the term Greene is heard saying on the recording. Two men wore shirts with the same phrase in the courtroom.
Greene is still on the November ballot, and could be elected and sworn in. State law prohibits anyone from serving as sheriff if they have been convicted of a felony. Experts say the law is unclear on whether a sheriff removed for the other allegations – sexual misconduct, maladministration, corruption and civil rights violations – can still hold the office.