Local Politics

Soles booked on assault charge

Posted January 8, 2010 11:16 a.m. EST
Updated January 8, 2010 6:27 p.m. EST

— The state's longest-serving lawmaker went to the Columbus County Jail Friday morning to be booked on an assault charge in connection with an August shooting at his Tabor City home.

A grand jury indicted Sen. R.C. Soles, D-Columbus, on Thursday on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury.

He and lawyer Brad Bannon arrived at the jail in a black Mercedes and declined to comment as they walked inside.

Soles was released on a $5,000 unsecured bond, and a magistrate set his next court date for Feb. 10.

Authorities have said Soles shot Thomas Kyle Blackburn, a former legal client, after two intruders kicked in the front door of the lawmaker's home. Blackburn wasn't badly hurt in the incident.

Bannon and law partner Joe Cheshire have maintained that Soles fired in self-defense.

"We'd like to reiterate that we're disappointed with the grand jury indictment," Bannon said Friday as he and Soles left the courthouse. "We continue to maintain that Sen. Soles' house was under attack on Aug. 23, and he was acting in defense of himself and in defense of his home."

The state Attorney General's Office assumed control of the case in September after local prosecutors said their close ties to Soles would preclude them from handling the investigation.

A grand jury last month found that Soles acted criminally when he shot Blackburn.

A different grand jury returned the indictment Thursday. If convicted, Soles could face 15 to 31 months in prison.

Some Columbus County residents said they still support the 75-year-old lawmaker, despite the indictment.

"I think he did a lot for Columbus County. He brought in a lot of jobs. He brought in the prison system here for us. It created a lot of jobs in the county, and the county was in need of jobs," Sue McPherson said.

"I think it's baloney," Cynthia Nickelson said of the criminal charge. "Those boys were in the wrong place. They had no business at the senator's house."

Soles has served in the General Assembly for 42 years. He said last week that he won't seek re-election in November.