WRAL Investigates

Suspended Granville sheriff accused of falsifying records; current sheriff resigns

Posted October 27, 2021 8:46 a.m. EDT
Updated October 27, 2021 4:27 p.m. EDT

— Granville County Sheriff Brindell Wilkins, who has been on suspension for two years while facing criminal charges, was indicted Tuesday on charges he falsified records. The expanding case has also led Wilkins' successor to resign.

A Wake County grand jury indicted Wilkins on seven counts each of obtaining property by false pretense and obstruction of justice, finding that he doctored records about his in-service training and firearms training from 2012 to 2018 to maintain his state law enforcement certification.

As the indictments were being handed up, Charles Noblin, who was appointed early last year to serve as Granville County sheriff until the charges against Wilkins were resolved, submitted his resignation, effective at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

"Due to personal reasons beyond my control and newly discovered information brought to my attention concerning the ongoing investigation, I feel that it is in my best interest and betterment of Granville County’s Sheriff Office that I inform you of my resignation," Noblin wrote in an email Tuesday to Granville County Attorney James Wrenn.

In a letter to the state Sheriffs Training and Standards Division obtained by WRAL Investigates, Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman implicated Noblin in one instance of falsified records when he was on medical leave.

"Law enforcement is called to handle a very difficult position in our community, but they are also called to be above reproach," said Freeman, whose office was asked to investigate the case to avoid any conflict of interest within the Granville County District Attorney's Office.

"When it comes to their credibility and their qualifications, it really is important that they maintain the highest standard," she said.

Chief Deputy Chris Smoot has been named interim sheriff.

"We're trying to assure the public that they can have confidence in the sheriff's office," Wrenn told WRAL on Wednesday.

"We want to make sure that any problems are identified, and we believe that to be the case," he said, adding that Wilkins' leadership created "a culture that needed to be corrected and weeded out."

The Granville County Sheriff's Office has been embroiled in controversy for more than two years, following Wilkins' initial indictment on obstruction charges. At that time, he was accused of urging someone in 2014 to kill a deputy he thought was about to expose his alleged use of racially offensive language.

A grand jury indicted him in June on more obstruction charges and two counts of failing to discharge his duties. The charges related to the sheriff's office drug unit and to improper approval of gun permits.

Shortly after the September 2019 indictment, state and federal investigators began looking into the operations of the drug unit. FBI and State Bureau of Investigation agents are tracking money seized and used by investigators in drug cases.

WRAL Investigates found drug investigators in the Granville County Sheriff’s Office didn’t keep track of how much money was paid to informants and that members may have illegally coerced people into becoming informants.

District Attorney Mike Waters told SBI investigators that his office had to dismiss more than 100 criminal cases in 2017 because the drug unit didn’t document any of its interactions with a frequent informant, including any agreements with him, how much he was paid or who was to be targeted in undercover drugs buys.

A member of the drug unit, Sgt. Chad Coffey, was indicted last year on charges of obstruction of justice, conspiracy to deliver cocaine, embezzlement and altering or destroying evidence.

Coffey was indicted Tuesday on 14 counts each of obstruction and obtaining property by false pretense. The indictments allege that he doctored training records for Wilkins and former Chief Deputy Sherwood Boyd from 2012 to 2018.

Boyd also was indicted on seven counts each of obstruction and obtaining property by false pretense in connection with the alleged scheme, while former deputy Edward Keith Campbell was indicted on two counts of each charge, alleging that he doctored the training records for Wilkins and Boyd in 2012 and 2013.

Freeman said Tuesday's round of indictments wraps up the investigation into the Granville County Sheriff's Office, and the case now moves to court.

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