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Former Person DA pleads guilty to harassing women

Posted July 8, 2010

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— The former district attorney for Person and Caswell counties pleaded guilty Thursday to inappropriately touching and kissing women and using dismissed cases to win votes in his re-election campaigns.

Joel Brewer pleaded guilty to seven counts of assault on a female and one count each of impersonating a law enforcement officer and willfully failing to discharge duties.

"I want to, with deep remorse, apologize to the people involved here," a shaken Brewer said in court. "I also apologize to this community and my family and friends."

Joel Brewer at court Ex-prosecutor apologizes for misconduct toward women

Cabarrus County Chief District Judge William Hamby Jr., who was brought in from outside to handle the case, sentenced him to 105 days in prison, which was suspended to three years on probation. Hamby also ordered him to pay a $50,000 fine and perform 200 hours of community service.

The maximum jail time Brewer could have received for the nine misdemeanors was 120 days.

Defense attorney George Daniel said the North Carolina State Bar has already told Brewer that they want to question him about the case, but Katherine Jean, general counsel for the State Bar, wouldn't confirm Thursday that an investigation was pending.

If Brewer loses his law license for at least 90 days, the $50,000 fine would be cut in half, Hamby said.

The State Bureau of Investigation filed the charges against Brewer last month, following a seven-month investigation. Brewer retired in February – during the middle of the probe – after 16 years as district attorney.

Deputy Attorney General Jim Coman called Brewer a "predator" and asked Hamby to order him to undergo counseling for "inappropriate sexual issues."

"This is clearly a case of a person in power victimizing the powerless," Coman said. "This individual, probably because of the position he held, believed that he was above the law."

Hamby ordered the counseling, which Daniel said Brewer has already started. If he retains his law license, Brewer also would be barred from being appointed to represent indigent women.

Prosecutors detailed in court how Brewer violated women who worked in his office and whom he met during daily activities.

  • He called a female employee into his office, told her she smelled nice, grabbed her hand and put it on him.
  • He put his hand on the thigh of another female employee while they were returning from a trip to the legislature in Raleigh.
  • A woman who had known him for some time went to speak to him about a ticket she had received, and he hugged her and tried to give her $100.
  • He put his hands on two women who worked at a dry cleaner in Roxboro, including a 16-year-old.
  • A female employee at the Roxboro County Club was sitting in a golf cart when he ran some money up her thigh and told her she could make more tips if she dressed more provocatively.
  • He touched another female Roxboro Country Club employee on the buttocks and told her, "You make me feel young."

Most of the women feared the possible repercussions if they reported the incidents because of Brewer's prominence in the community, prosecutors said. So, they remained silent.

Brewer also stopped female drivers by flashing a gold badge, and directed an assistant district attorney to dismiss a case against a woman with whom Brewer had been trying to pursue a relationship, prosecutors said.

He also kept a file of minor citations he dismissed and during past elections, called the offenders and ask them for their vote and help working the polls, prosecutors said.

SBI agents searched Brewer's office at the Person County Courthouse in February and seized two folders containing pink copies of citations, notes, phone messages and letters, according to a search warrant. One file was for male defendants, and the other was for female defendants, the warrant stated.

Agents also seized a gold-colored badge with "District Attorney" and "J.H. Brewer" engraved on the shield, according to the warrant.

Daniel called the badge issue "a misunderstanding," saying Brewer heard that other district attorneys carried gold badges as the chief law enforcement officer in their counties.

Hamby ordered that the badge be destroyed.

Daniel and fellow defense attorney Butch Williams gave the judge numerous letters supporting Brewer from community members and they asked that he not serve any jail time, noting that he is involved in various community activities.

Williams said after the court hearing that Brewer was satisfied with the outcome.

"He's happy that everyone can now move on and the system can go ahead," Williams said.


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  • Raleigh Boys Jul 9, 2010

    This guy got off sweet. He pleaded guilty to seven counts of assault on a female, but in our lovely state of NC, he could have pleaded guilty to 50 counts of misdemeanors, and it would still be less a crime, than one felony possession of stolen goods. He will get to keep his firearm, but the guy who stole something in 1993 is screwed for life. Nice justice system we have here.

  • Cosworth Jul 9, 2010

    Time for your favorite play-at-home game, Guess the Party! Let's see... the headline doesn't say "Former REPUBLICAN Person DA pleads guilty to harassing women". If you said Democrat you didn't read it anywhere in this article, but you'd be correct!

    Thanks for playing Guess the Party on WRAL.com!

  • livinglife Jul 9, 2010

    @ no contest: It's not justice at all, however it's not just with the cops, DA's, ADA's, it's everywhere, we only hear about the "officials" because it's considered news. If you go to the courthouse and watch some of the hearings, it happens all the time with the average citizen. Our legal system is not great at all.

  • no contest Jul 9, 2010

    How can this be called justice?! The average citizen is NOT afforded the same rights and privileges as these criminals with law degrees or badges. Cops, DA's, ADA's, investigators and judges need to think hard as to why we the people do not trust you at all anymore.

  • luvmybully Jul 9, 2010

    As a Person County native, I am truly disgusted! After all he did, sexual harassment (INCLUDING A MINOR), fraud, bribery, and impersonating an officer...he gets community service and fine? Give me a break!

  • DiscoStu65 Jul 9, 2010

    hopefully he will get some "prison justice" while he's on the inside

  • Ol Forrester Jul 9, 2010

    Am I right that he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges only? How convenient of the prosecutors to allow that instead of a felony conviction.

  • sniperdiver Jul 8, 2010

    Another person whom an active prison sentence may benifit. He is not above the law and needs to be imprisoned to reassure the public that not all public officials are above the law.

  • twc Jul 8, 2010

    People like him disgust me to no end!!

    Families trying to feed their kids, law enforcement risking their lives; and he's trying to extort favors for his cheap personal gratification!

    Now he'll receive so much sympathy every Sunday morning. Wonder if he'll try to take advantage of someone else? You betcha!!

  • Dr.Moufunchitz Jul 8, 2010

    he probably has some stuff on a lot of other people in nc government...remember folks NC is notorious for corruption