Dispatches from a Reporter's Notebook

Star Stumbles

Posted September 28, 2007

Fans know country-rock-rap musician Matthew Shafer as "Uncle Kracker," but today,in a Wake County courtroom, he was "the defendant."

Thirty-three-year-old Shafer was originally charged with a second-degree sex offense after he was accused of inappropriately groping a woman beneath her skirt at a Raleigh bar after a show last month. 

Today, he pleaded to a non-sex crime, misdemeanor assault on a female.  His attorney says the case was blown out of proportion because of Shafer's fame.  He points to the fact that Shafer was originally placed under an astronomical bond- $5 million. He says his client, in entering an "Alford Plea" today, did not admit guilt but simply acknowledged it was in his best interest to resolve the matter quickly. 

The assistant district attorney says the victim was in favor of the plea because she wanted the situation resolved, in part, to end the media circus surrounding the case.

If you didn't know he was a rock star, you wouldn't have batted an eye at the heavyset, long-haired man with tired eyes at the defendant's table. 

In court, he looked like an inmate who's mama had brought him his Sunday suit in a hanging bag so that he could slip it on in the back room.  He paired it with a bold black and white patterned tie and matching kerchief. 

He sat quietly, looking tired, but attentive as the case against him was outlined by the prosecutor.  He spoke only once – when the judge asked him if he had any daughters. He responded, simply "Three," at which point the judge asked him a rhetorical question:  "How would you feel if this happened to one of them?"

When the prosecutor described the fact that Shafer apparently was drunk and stumbled down a flight of stairs into the victim, he called the incident an "unfortunate" and "ill-conceived" result of alcohol abuse. 

While I'm sure the musician's rise to fame has been anything but easy – in fact, it's a struggle that has probably taken years – his "stumble" down the steps that night into a criminal charge took just a few seconds. 

I think it might be just as easy to stumble out of fame. It takes years of hard work to get there, but just one bad stumble can cause someone to lose it all.  I often wonder if famous people think about the fact that everything they've worked so hard to achieve might be erased by a single stupid act?  

As I left the courthouse today, I saw Shafer standing on the sidewalk smoking a cigarette, laughing with attorneys.  I hope that he was simply expressing relief and gratitude that he had resolved the case fairly, and without having to go to trial. 

Shafer got a deal today.  Hopefully he knows that and will remember that the next time it may not be so easy to climb back up the staircase.

About this Blog:

WRAL's Amanda Lamb offers a behind-the-scenes look at what TV news reporters do, the people they meet and how their jobs affect them.