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Wake DA: Attorney misled judge, prosecutor in teen DWI case

Posted February 3, 2012

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— A drunken-driving case involving a 16-year-old boy will be retried after Wake County's district attorney filed a motion in which he claims a defense attorney misled a judge and prosecutor to get the case to court nearly three weeks ahead of schedule.

"This case wasn't handled the right way. It was brought up by somebody before its court date, and a judgment was entered that doesn't seem in keeping with the law of North Carolina," District Attorney Colon Willoughby said Friday.

The case involves Henry Horne, who was arrested Dec. 10 on a driving while impaired charge and other traffic-related offenses.

Horne was given a court date of Feb. 13, but, Willoughby said in a motion last week, Horne’s attorney James Crouch showed up in court on Jan. 20 and told Judge Keith Gregory and Assistant District Attorney April Flythe that her supervisor agreed to put the case on the court calendar for that day.

In North Carolina, only prosecutors have the authority to set trial dates. Flythe's supervisor, Assistant District Attorney Steven Saad, never authorized the Jan. 20 court date, Willoughby said in the motion.

In addition, Willoughby said in the motion, Crouch also "through some unknown means caused the official court file to be brought to District Judge Gregory's courtroom" and that Crouch also gave Flythe only two pages of a 10-page police report that did not include details about a 17-year-old passenger riding in Horne's car at the time of his arrest.

Under state law, that is an aggravating factor in which a defendant is subject to a minimum of 30 days' active imprisonment, Willoughby said in his motion.

Instead, Horne pleaded guilty, and Gregory gave him a 120-day suspended prison sentence, 12 months of unsupervised probation, 72 hours of community service and ordered him to pay $640 in fines and court costs, according to court documents.

Gregory ruled that the state could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that an aggravating factor existed because there were no witnesses present to prove it.

James Crouch Teen DWI case to be retried after DA's concerns

Flythe, Willoughby said in the motion, had pulled up the original 10-page report in court and offered to the judge the aggravating factor that there was a passenger under the age of 18 in the car.

Gregory declined to comment on the matter Friday.

Crouch said Friday that he moved up the case because he was going to be out of the country on Feb. 13, but he declined to comment on the district attorney's accusation that he made representations that "were false and were misleading."

"I don't have any comment," he said. "I think the order has been entered stating why it was set aside."

Another judge's order, filed Thursday, vacates Horne's guilty plea and sentence and puts the case back on the court docket for Feb. 13.

"The actions appear to be suspicious, but we didn’t have a hearing, so we don’t know what the motive was," Willoughby said. "We can all look at the case and see this strange outcome. In a case like this, it gives us pause to get a closer look."

Willoughby said his office will become more vigilant in ensuring court dates aren't improperly changed.

"We deal with most people on a trust basis," he said. "We can’t handle this high volume of cases in traffic court if we can’t rely on the integrity of the participants. When something strikes at that integrity, it strikes at the very fabric of the court system, and we have to address it and find out what happened and correct it."

It is his responsibility, he said, to ensure the Wake County court system runs fairly.

"We have to do things in the right way," he said. "We have to do them transparently, or people lose faith in the credibility and integrity of the court system."

24 Comments

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  • dollibug Feb 6, 2012

    Interesting "story"....would anyone think anything "shady" could be going on with the judicial systems? Afterall...the court system is ALL ABOUT what is FAIR AND JUST....suppose to have PROOF OF A CRIME in order to indict and convict a person...but there are people in positions who get by with "nothing and move forward with nothing and still have nothing to go to trial with"....and when it is ALL SAID AND DONE...NOTHING EQUALS NOTHING....no matter how you look at it....you can NOT make SOMETHING OUT OF NOTHING.....but yet...GRAND JURY rubberstamps cases and indicts people on NOTHING....

  • dollibug Feb 6, 2012

    The FAIR AND JUST in the Judicial System NOT LONGER EXISTS...
    http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-736024....and the LAWS have NOT changed....so one has to believe that it is the people who are "in charging of minding the court systems" or trying to"...

    IT is really very sad that we, the people, have allowed such as this to go on...by electing people who do NOT BELONG in the positions that they are in...GET OUT AND VOTE...and make SURE that you are VOTING for someone who will make the courts rooms FAIR AND JUST AGAIN....

  • dollibug Feb 6, 2012

    +++++Now, what's the great and powerful bar assoication going to do about it?
    Rebelyell55

    Absolutely nothing will be done...the state bar is nothing but attorneys judging attorneys....it is a GOOD OLE BOYS AND GIRLS NETWORK....they all just cover each other's back...I am sure people would be SHOCKED BEYOND BELIEF what ATTORNEYS CAN DO AND GET BY WITH DOING IT...

  • dollibug Feb 6, 2012

    +++++What's done in the dark always comes to light. I don't know how people can sleep at night. People don't think or care about integrity anymore, so sad.
    concernedchristian19777

    OMG....your comment was well worth repeating....

  • walterrand Feb 6, 2012

    The guy pled guilty to a DWI. He didn't get off the hook. The ADA (assistant DA)could easily have postponed the case in order to get the evidence in court to punish the guy more harshly. Both the ADA in the courtroom and the judge in the courtroom have to agree to add a case onto the day's docket. The ADA could have said no. Of course, had the guy been looking at a harsher punishment, he might've pled not guilty & been found not guilty. It's possible that no one lied. It's possible that Saad (ADA) agreed to the plea of guilty to DWI in return for dismissal of lesser charges & Crouch (defense lawyer) told the courtroom ADA that but that ADA thought Crouch meant more than that. This might be a whole lot of nothing.

  • concernedchristian19777 Feb 6, 2012

    What's done in the dark always comes to light. I don't know how people can sleep at night. People don't think or care about integrity anymore, so sad.

  • Sherlock Feb 6, 2012

    The "Good Old Boy System" at work in this county.... Great to have money to pay for that kind of a lawyer....

  • Rebelyell55 Feb 3, 2012

    The guy was doing what he thougtht best for his client, if anyone thing there are honest lawyers ya'll got a lot of learning to do. This has nothing to do with a judge or anyone else in the system, this was a lawyer trying to work the system and caught lying about it. Now, what's the great and powerful bar assoication going to do about it?

  • sinenomine Feb 3, 2012

    For those commenting on attorney Crouch being "dirty", or worse, his record with the North Carolina State Bar indicates no public disciplinary action. It can be found here:

    http://www.ncbar.com/members/member_detail.asp?Nav=1&callID=2&ID=18975

  • sinenomine Feb 3, 2012

    Judge Gregory is not, as vegasbabyvegas suggests, "shady as well". On the contrary he is a former Assistant District Attorney and has also spent time in private legal practice, including work as a defense lawyer. He has a long and distinguished legal career and does not deserve to be smeared by people like vegasbabyvegas who apparently know nothing of the situation.

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