Wednesday, July 17, 2024

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Judge grants city’s motion to quash over-broad subpoena for police materials; Drumwright’s trial still set for Wednesday

Drumwright was arrested by the Alamance County sheriff’s office

The trial of Rev. Greg Drumwright, who led the October 31, 2020 march and rally in Graham that twice resulted in law enforcement using pepper spray – first to require marchers to get out of the street and onto the courthouse grounds and the second when the rally on courthouse grounds was itself declared over and all participants were required to disperse – appears to be on for Wednesday in Alamance County district court.

Drumwright, , 41, black male, of 4 Clubview Court, Greensboro is probably the  highest-profile defendant charged following a so-called march to the polls that he led that day in downtown Graham and the rally at the courthouse.

The Alamance County sheriff’s office shut down the rally on the grounds of the Alamance County Historic Court House – after discovering that a gas-powered generator and two gas cans had been brought onto the property, violating a permit that Drumwright had been granted for the event.

Drumwright is currently charged with misdemeanor failure to disperse on command, resisting a public officer, and creating a public disturbance.

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Drumwright’s attorneys filed a recent motion to subpoena Graham police chief Kristy Cole, with a demand that she permit inspection of all written, video, and audio communications between the Graham police department and the Alamance County sheriff’s office during the October 31 protest.

Drumwright after a press conference on December 2, with his attorneys – Ben Crump, who was not a part of today’s motion hearing, and Jason Keith, who was – when a different district court judge held a hearing on the district attorney’s motion to strengthen the pre-trial terms of Drumwright’s bail.

In general, the police were responsible for the streets and sidewalks leading up to the courthouse that day, and the sheriff’s office had jurisdiction over the courthouse grounds per se.

Retired district court judge William “Lunsford” Long, III of Orange County on Monday – after an online hearing – granted a motion by the city’s attorney to quash a subpoena filed by the attorneys for Rev. Gregory Drumwright which attempted to compel chief Cole to furnish those materials.

Determining that a subpoena dated July 8 and received by the Graham police department on July 20 was overly-broad, Long instead told the defense attorneys to get with Kevin Harrison, the assistant district attorney who is prosecuting the 2020 protest trials, to make sure they have everything they need.

It was noted that Drumwright was arrested and charged by the sheriff’s office, not the municipal police, and thus Long questioned the reasonableness of the subpoena for police materials.

This photo shows the gas can in close proximity to the generator, which the sheriff’s office said made the situation unsafe and potentially dangerous to the rally participants.
A second photo of a gas can on the courthouse grounds.
The gas-powered generator that was discovered by the sheriff’s office during the rally. They were led to the generator when they observed two gas cans on site.

However, the retired district court judge – who has agreed to preside over all of the 2020 protest cases – denied the city’s motion to quash another subpoena, directing Graham assistant police chief Rodney King and another Graham police officer (identified in the court file as “J. Payne”) to testify at Drumwright’s trial.

Though Harrison said Monday afternoon that King apparently has a scheduling conflict, Long said that issue can be worked out later without disrupting the trial.

“I know there was some talk this might be a multi-date trial – is that still the case, Mr. Harrison?” Long asked the assistant D.A.

Harrison said he’s not sure but he’s planning to call at least eight witnesses – none of whom are employed with the Graham police department, which he noted, wasn’t involved in Drumwright’s arrest.

Drumwright’s attorneys told Long Monday afternoon that they want to ensure they have all of the evidence that could potentially help their client’s case before the trial begins.


Defense: we don’t want to be “bamboozled”

 “What we’re doing is covering ourselves to ensure we have everything so we’re not bamboozled going to court,” Greensboro attorney Jason Keith told Long during the hearing.  Drumwright is also being represented by attorney Elizabeth Haddix of Carrboro.

The organizer of the “I am Change Legacy March to the Polls” that he held in downtown Graham on October 31, the last day of early voting for the 2020 general election, Drumwright is currently charged with misdemeanor failure to disperse on command, resisting a public officer, and creating a public disturbance.

Alamance County sheriff’s corporal Barbara Tomey was injured during a brief scuffle while trying to confiscate the generator, which was concealed inside a cloth beach wagon. Drumwright was among 23 people arrested that afternoon.

Christopher Knight, whom Keith said is assisting him with preparing for the trial, told Long, “What we are specifically looking for [is] the bodycam footage of the march to the polls on October 31st and the events leading up to Rev. Drumwright’s arrest,” Knight said.

Rev. Greg Drumwright during the October 31 march in Graham, prior to the rally and the order to disperse from courthouse grounds.

Judge rules no “fishing expedition” to be allowed

“It sounds like you want them to bring everything, which is what I would term a fishing expedition,” Long responded.  While state laws provide several avenues to obtain evidence, it doesn’t give the attorneys, or any other parties, the right to go digging through all of an agency’s files, he explained.  “I think the state has given you everything it has to offer throughout,” the judge added.

“We’re concerned about discoverable evidence that may be out there,” Keith said.

“If you want to go look at the videos, their body cams, you have the right to do that – the trial doesn’t have to be Wednesday,” Long explained, noting that the requested evidence included “all radio-controlled communications” between the two law enforcement agencies on October 31.

The judge pointed to previous hearings which involved the use of video footage taken from cameras positioned on top of the courthouse and from cameras the city has across the street.  “You can go down there, identify some of the officers you think might be key players,” Long said.  “If you need more time, I’m open to making sure it’s done right, so don’t worry about that.”

The attorney for the Graham police department, Anthony Biller of Raleigh, said it was his understanding that the department had already turned over its “entire audio and video” footage to the district attorney’s office.

“I believe, under statute, Mr. Keith has the right to the recordings relative to his client.”  The scope of evidence that Drumwright’s attorneys were seeking to subpoena would take hundreds of hours to compile, Biller contended during the hearing Monday.

The Alamance County sheriff’s office, which was the agency that arrested Drumwright, has not been subpoenaed by his defense attorneys to produce or permit inspection of video or other evidence from October 31, according to the court file.  No lawyers appeared on behalf of the sheriff’s office during the online hearing.

“Is there anybody going to be seeking a postponement?” Long asked near the end of the hearing?

“I think, given the uncertainty of some of these officers, some of these witnesses are necessary to our case,” Keith responded.

Nonetheless, Long said, “We could start for sure,” and iron out those details once the trial gets underway.

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