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Former judge doesn't regret call for anti-gang laws

Posted August 18, 2008

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— A former District Court judge who made a high-profile appeal for anti-gang legislation five months ago said he is beginning to see some response to his plea.

Judge Craig Brown was setting bond for Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr., 17, of 1213 Shepherd St. in Durham, who is charged with murder in the Jan. 18 slaying of Duke graduate student Abhijit Mahato and is one of two men charged with killing Eve Carson, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill student body president. Brown called for state legislators to immediately pass laws to curb gang activity.

"I respectfully and sincerely ask the governor to call a special session of the Legislature," Brown said during the March 14 court hearing. "I'm sending an SOS to Raleigh."

Less than two months later, he retired after almost a dozen years on the bench in Durham. He said he stepped down for medical reasons and wasn't forced out for being outspoken, but he admits his comments rankled people.

"I think a lot of people felt that I had overstepped my bounds, and I understand that," he said, but he added that hindsight hasn't made him regret his decision to speak out.

Brown said his frustration had boiled over after watching the gang problem grow in Durham over the years as legislation designed to fight gangs repeatedly stalled in the General Assembly.

Despite the fact that police said there's no evidence that Carson's slaying was gang-related, Brown used the media attention garnered by the case to make his point.

Gov. Mike Easley on Friday signed into law a bill that toughens penalties for crimes committed by gang members and makes recruiting people into a gang a crime in itself.

The Carson case also exposed problems with the state's probation system, and Brown said he already is seeing improvements to the way the system works with the judicial system.

"The left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing," he said, noting judges sometimes had to make decisions on bonds and sentences without knowing if a defendant was already on probation.

Probation officials are now trying to make those records more available to judges, he said, and juvenile records are also becoming more available for judges to review when a defendant has been convicted of serious felonies as a juvenile.

The reforms are all a result of the Carson case, Brown said.

"The Eve Carson case, whether you like it or not, brought those issues to the forefront, and the system had no choice but to change as a result of it," he said.

28 Comments

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  • TheAdmiral Aug 19, 2008

    Too bad that he stepped down. I think this judge and Howard Manning have a firm grasp of the situation around here and need to hold the government at task for not fulfilling their promises to the public as well as betraying their trust in these situations.

  • TheAdmiral Aug 19, 2008

    As society will dictate:

    Gangs are now considered Domestic Terrorists.
    Computer Programmers are now Phreakers.
    The word hacker has been redefined to include the person who logs into their computer.
    And a Liberal is now considered anyone who thinks punishment is relative to the act or crime.

    Society has said it - now it is.

  • vote4changeASAP Aug 19, 2008

    Gangs should be treated as terrorists.

    Terrorists type crimes linked to people known to be in terrorists organizations. Longer and tougher sentences.

    Or, we can sit back and do nothing. I say rattle some chains.

  • streetfightinman Aug 19, 2008

    What a dumb story He's a judge duh!arrest them all.

  • superman Aug 19, 2008

    Is there a web site that I can visit to find a list of gangs and their members? How would you prove in court that a person was or is a member of a gang? A group of cub scouts could be a gang! People will have to be punished for their acts and not because they are in a gang. You barking up the wrong tree. I have a red bandana-- that does not make me a gang member.

  • Wags Aug 19, 2008

    Who in the world would not like what the judge had to say. He sat on the bench daily and saw what was going on. Good for him and keep up the good work.

  • GWALLY Aug 19, 2008

    Why is it that "we" are so afraid of not being "politically" correct? Tollerance becomes ignorance (and therefore dangerous) when we allow fact and truth to be judged by it's political "correctness".

  • FullOfId Aug 19, 2008

    Why on earth should he regret what he said? He was 100% correct. Who cares if he upset someone. There is a HUGE gang problem in this area - they are infiltrating all of our neighborhoods. They MUST be stopped. Raleigh should not ignore this problem that is worsening.

  • streetfightinman Aug 19, 2008

    Why would he regret it, who cares if criminals don't like it.
    arrest all of them

  • bossman63076 Aug 19, 2008

    Maybe I he would put these gang members under the jail or assign long sentences to them life for everyone would be nicer. After all he has the final say so. Sounds like he is practicing his speech for runnung for some type of policical office. Must be a Democrat as he is blaming everyone else for something he could have controled.

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