Local News

Former U.S. prosecutor practiced on suspended law license

Posted August 2, 2010 6:01 p.m. EDT
Updated August 2, 2010 7:13 p.m. EDT

— The validity of some federal cases tried in North Carolina could be in question because a former assistant U.S. attorney assigned to them didn't have a law license.

David Folmar didn't turn in his dues and paperwork to keep his law license in November 2003, yet he continued to prosecute hundreds of drug cases across the federal court's Middle District, which includes Durham and Hoke counties in the central part of the state, as well as Guilford, Forsyth and Cabarrus counties.

According to the North Carolina State Bar, Folmar lied about his suspended license and hid it from the U.S. attorney and the courts for more than five years.

Raleigh defense attorney Karl Knudsen believes the license lapse could lead to a technical challenge for Folmar's cases.

"I would be arguing on behalf of anyone who was convicted as a result of that indictment, that the indictment was fatally defective because there was no authority to submit it in the first place," Knudsen said.

Folmar's attorney, Wade Smith, of Raleigh, calls the situation a "very tragic story."

He said Folmar was a "marvelous attorney" who "became sick" with severe depression.

When the State Bar issued a five-year suspension in June, the discipline noted the prosecutor was considered a solid attorney.

Former federal prosecutor Kieran Shanahan said he believes having other licensed prosecutors involved in the cases that Folmar worked on will protect the integrity of cases.

"Can a defendant really say he was somehow deprived of his rights?" Shanahan said.

So far, appeals judges have found no prejudice to toss out Folmar's prosecutions.

As appeals over Folmar's license lapse continue, the State Bar ordered him to get help for his depression and alcohol abuse.

If he shows improvement, he can apply to get his law license back in 2012.