Local News

Raleigh DWI attorney pleads guilty in corruption case

Posted November 13, 2012
Updated April 11, 2013

— A Raleigh defense attorney pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges that he altered court records relating to dozens of DWI convictions in an effort to lessen penalties for his clients.

James Crouch was indicted in June on accusations by Wake County's district attorney that he backdated convictions in an effort to shorten or eliminate license suspensions in at least 46 driving while impaired cases over the past five years.

Crouch, who faced two counts of obstruction of justice and one count each of criminal conspiracy and altering court documents, was set to go to trial Dec. 3, the same day he is now expected to be sentenced for the crimes.

The charges carry a maximum of 13 years in prison, but under a plea deal, they have been consolidated to two charges.

As part of his arrangement with prosecutors, he will be disbarred, and he will work to hand over current cases to other attorneys.

Crouch, 46, had no comment after Tuesday's hearing, but his attorney, Joseph Cheshire, said he believes Crouch is sorry for what he did.

"I don't think there's any question," Cheshire said. "Most people are at this particular stage. I think that James is going back and trying to re-evaluate his life and what caused him to be where he is today."

Cheshire added that the number of cases in question is a tiny percentage of the thousands of cases Crouch handled through his career.

Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby asked that sentencing be continued until next month, partly because detectives found evidence that Crouch altered documents to try to "thwart" the investigation.

Raleigh attorney James Crouch Raleigh attorney pleads guilty in corruption case

Testifying Tuesday, Kanawha Perry, a special agent with the State Bureau of Investigation, said many of Crouch's clients paid him an extra $750 to change the date of their DWI convictions.

Kristin Ruth, a District Court judge, signed off on the changes.

Perry testified that he also found notes from Crouch's office records indicating plans to backdate the convictions.

"I think it's a pretty aggravated case when somebody manipulates the records of 50 or 60 or 70 DWIs and puts those people back on the road when they should have had their licenses suspended," Willoughby said after the hearing.

His accusations also led to the indictment of Ruth, who resigned in May and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge in the case in July. She testified that she did not know Crouch had altered court documents when she signed them.

A paralegal for Crouch was also indicted. Her case is still pending.

72 Comments

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  • dollibug Nov 15, 5:00 p.m.

    ****Is he too much of a friend to Colon Willoughby and the Wake County prosecutorial service?

    I guess it just depends on who is part of the *corruption and cover up*....some can get by with things that others get caught for....but this is just how is works....it is sad when EVERYONE is not held accountable for what they do / or not. NC General Assembly could make a difference but I guess they are not too concerned about things either.

  • piene2 Nov 15, 11:53 a.m.

    "Crouch was a sleazy attorney who got results, he didn't care if how he did it was legal, underhanded or not.

    mypoint"

    Yes, oh yes! Mister Crouch is my kind of attorney. He is exactly the sort of attorney I want working for me. Given the choice of Mister Nice Guy loser or Mister sleazy attorney who gets results, I will take Mister sleazy attorney who gets results every single time.

  • dollibug Nov 15, 11:36 a.m.

    There are a lot of *crooked attorneys* in the world....probably more of them than those who are capable of really wanting to help people....most attorneys just want to *collect the most money and do the least amount of work for it*.....and in the process they do not really care what else happens.....this is the world in which the good ole boys and girls network lives.....afterall, *IT IS JUST A GAME THAT THEY PLAY EVERY DAY*...

  • jackcdneh1017 Nov 15, 10:45 a.m.

    Why has Judge Paul Gessner who was also guilty of the same things done by Kristen Ruth given a pass on this conduct? Is he too much of a friend to Colon Willoughby and the Wake County prosecutorial service?

  • samr Nov 14, 1:17 p.m.

    He will be practicing law in another state within 5 years or will end up as a PI for his wife's firm. Don't anyone shed a tear for his future.

  • Smedley Nov 14, 11:11 a.m.

    If Mister Crouch is no longer available there are a plethora of other lawyers that can easily and quietly get any sort of citation fixed. Usually it costs no more then the fine would have been and all the other consequences simply never happen.

    piene2

    Yes plenty. And they might keep their law licenses and not get felony convictions if they don't lie to ADA's to have court days and hand Judge Gregory 2 pages out of a 10 page police report and try to pass it off as the full report.

  • bubbba Nov 14, 11:10 a.m.

    "I don't think there's any question," Cheshire said. "Most people are at this particular stage. I think that James is going back and trying to re-evaluate his life and what caused him to be where he is today."

    He had some help, Judge Christine Ruth.

  • superman Nov 14, 10:59 a.m.

    As part of the agreement he gives up his license and agrees to turn his cases over to another attorney. He wouild have had to that anyway. Our DA is slack to say the least. I will never vote for him again. If that is the best our DA can do -- he needs to hit the road as of yestereday. Colon-- you are an embarrassment to the taxpayers in Wake County.

  • BobLoblaw Nov 14, 10:42 a.m.

    What an absolute dirtbag. Apparently, in addition to obtaining these orders that effectively waived any DMV suspension, he also fabricated orders which suppressed the blood alcohol content and faxed them to DMV so that his clients who blew over a 0.15 wouldn't have to have an Interlock device.

    Good job with Colon Willoughby and his office in uncovering this fraud, prosecuting and ultimately removing Judge Ruth from the bench, and in obtaining the guilty plea of Crouch.

    If there were ANY doubt or possible defense, his attorney (same attorney as Greg Taylor) would have tried it rather than pleading his client guilty and hoping for the best on sentencing.

    Crouch's wife is also a lawyer. They have plenty of funds for a good criminal trial. Fact is, he's guilty, he tried to cover it up during the investigation, and he outright lied about and forged court documents. I hope that extra $750 per case was worth your reputation and the damage to your future and probably to your marriage.

  • dollibug Nov 14, 10:37 a.m.

    ***dollibug, one thing I have learned over the years is that there are at least two sides to every story. Furthermore, if you have two attorneys in a room there will be at least three opinions.

    You are correct..there are at least 2 sides to each and every case/story. Again I can assure you that there was *NO EVIDENCE presented* when my son was indicated *TWICE* by the GRAND JURY..http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-813288 this link might provide you with more information about just what took place.

    It took over 2 years but all criminal charges were finally *dismissed*..I guess this when the grand saga had *completed its cycle*..since there was really never any case of any crime, to begin with...just a lot of money, time and effort wasted on *nothing*...this is the AMERICAN WAY of how things work/OR NOT.

    By the way, I would have also loved to hear the *other side of this story too*, but I do not even think there was one..it is hard to *make something out of nothing*, you know?

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