Local News

Grand jury asks for probe of ex-Wake judge, attorney

Posted June 5, 2012

— A grand jury on Tuesday asked the Wake County District Attorney's Office to investigate a Raleigh attorney and a former District Court judge about whether a dozen DWI cases were improperly handled.

The legal actions, called presentments, open the door for possible indictments but are not charges themselves.

In February, Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens asked the State Bureau of Investigation to investigate District Judge Kristin Ruth after allegations from the district attorney about "unauthorized scheduling" and "unusual judgments" in the driving while impaired cases.

Ruth had entered an ex parte order that changed the judgment dates, effectively shortening or eliminating the driver's license suspensions for defendants, according to letters between Stephens and District Attorney Colon Willoughby.

Attorney James Crouch was the defense attorney on record in each case.

"While we are surprised at this unusual procedural step by the district attorney, a presentment is not a criminal charge," Crouch's attorney, Joe Cheshire, said in a statement. "As the investigation is ongoing, we will have no comment other than to urge people who follow this news to withhold judgment until all facts are known."

DWI cases handled by Wake judge, attorney to be probed Grand jury asks for probe of ex-Wake judge, attorney

Joe Zeszotarski, an attorney for Ruth, said she is continuing to cooperate with the SBI investigation and the Wake County District Attorney's Office.

Legal experts say presentments are rare and are a way for grand juries to advise district attorneys on whether to proceed with a case.

"It's just a cautious way of going about it to make sure that the information is reviewed by someone other than just the DA's office," Willoughby said Tuesday afternoon.

He added that it's too early to determine if his office will recommend indictments and that it will depend on what the investigation reveals.

"It's obvious that the grand jury feels this is a very serious matter and deserves some serious attention, and that's the way we intend to treat it," he said. "I hope that we can move this along fairly quickly, because it's an important matter, and I would hate for it to be looming.

The grand jury asked that two people who work for Crouch, Elizabeth Michelle Daniel and Christina Nicole Daniel, also be investigated.

Ruth stepped down from the bench May 18, acknowledging that she signed numerous orders for Crouch but did not read them because she trusted him.

Her resignation, she said, was necessary "to maintain the integrity of the judicial system."

Claims of misconduct against Crouch first surfaced in court documents in January, when Willoughby accused him of misleading a judge and an assistant district attorney to move a DWI case involving a 16-year-old boy three weeks ahead of schedule.

60 Comments

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  • Coatza Jun 6, 5:48 p.m.

    So, does anyone know who the new child support judge is?

  • BigUNCFan Jun 6, 2:03 p.m.

    To all of the people who say she did not have time to read everything, what if that had been my defense for not living up to a signed agreement sitting across from a judge's bench? The judge would rightly say to me that it is your duty as a party in the proceedings to read all legal documents carefully or have your lawyer review them and advise you.

    They even did a funny Southpark episode on the Apple contract and the fact that Kyle did not read the terms of service agreement.

  • rmatt91 Jun 6, 1:37 p.m.

    It's a shame that so many assume to know Kristen Ruth personally after only seeing her political affiliation or something so general. Even with attorneys Ruth knew on a personal level, she was no "Santa Claus" of the court house. She was fair & ethical. No judge can read word-for-word every document every lawyer presents to him/her. It is the ethical standing of the lawyer to be able to be trusted by the judges. Its a shame that it has come to this because of the slimy attorney.

  • BigUNCFan Jun 6, 11:45 a.m.

    Sounds to me like a mess. I always say if something looks not right, to trust your instincts. I have rarely been found to be wrong and this philosophy has served me well.

  • monet0645 Jun 6, 11:25 a.m.

    tealsatin - you have my sympathy.. But technically the judge was right - child support is cut and dry. The factors that cause a marriage to dissolve (infidelity, abuse, simple growing apart) do not impact child support calculations. I personally think that's BS in general b/c why should an ex-spouse get a nicer lifestyle because they don't make as much? Kids aren't "entitled" to any lifestyle nor are ex's.

    Now, if you could prove her lover/boss lied about her income to jack up your support payments, I'd say throw the book at 'em both..

    PS - I'm a divorced female w/ 2 kids and I don't believe in child support or alimony. The whole thing is a racket.

  • less_govt_is_better_govt Jun 6, 11:15 a.m.

    While some counties in North Carolina sometimes have probable cause hearings, in Wake County there is almost never a probable cause hearing. Defense lawyers practicing in Wake County may have had a probable cause hearing once in a career.

    (The reason they’re so rare probably has to do with the open setting. The prosecution in Wake County typically does not want to produce its witnesses for vigorous cross-examination by a defense lawyer.)

    The Wake County DA, Colon Willoughby, HATES probable cause and thinks ALL people accused for any crime should have to prove THEIR INNOCENCE. He likes to help law enforcement in wake county cover up exculpatory evidence, destroy evidence, and withhold information which would exonerate citizens!! He allows officers to falsify statements on warrants and instead of charging the criminal police officer with the felony they are guilty of committing, PERJURY, he will instead sweep this conduct under the rug!!!!! Call the Deparment of Justice today!

  • Life-goes-on. Jun 6, 10:20 a.m.

    Smells like a rat to me but we all know that the judicial system takes care of their own. Will wait to see how long it takes to dismiss the whole issue.

  • not my real name Jun 6, 9:24 a.m.

    Here we go again.

  • dollibug Jun 6, 9:08 a.m.

    @foghat001

    Grand Jury indicts people....no one said the grand jury was the trial....do not have any idea what you are talking about....do you? Trust me....I know more than I ever *cared* to know just what the Grand Jury and Judicial System does to people.....I can NOT even tell you the number of times I have gone to court in the past few years....many more than I ever cared to...I can assure you....http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-779368 this is just one link....and here are the others for more info: http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-780063 (part 1) http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-780065 (part 2)....the GRAND JURY is a *secret session*....and they are the ones who start the process of being tried for a crime....for whatever reason....those who are suppose to make the decisions, do NOT seek truth...kind of like the first link above....where NC DVPO are just approved when 2 parties *consent*....without finding of *FACTS*....

  • foghat001 Jun 5, 7:41 p.m.

    Dollibug - the grand jury is NOT the trial!

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