Four defendants had their cases disposed during the latest round of protest trials in Alamance County district court on Wednesday, while five other cases were resolved Wednesday without going to trial.
Carey Kirk Griffin, 38, white, female, of 2117 East Main Street in Durham, was found guilty of resisting an officer for failing to use the crosswalks in Court Square – and stay out of the streets – as she had been directed by Graham police during a protest on September 26, 2020, based on testimony given at her trial in district court on Wednesday. At the time in question, another individual nearby was being arrested, Corporal Clint Cross of the Graham police department recalled on the witness stand. While Griffin testified to living in Alamance County for seven years, her arrest records listed a Durham residence.
Video recorded during the encounter between Griffin and Graham police showed her being instructed to use the crosswalk and her twice telling officers, “I am crossing the sidewalk,” right before she was arrested.
Griffin, for her part, explained to the judge that she had been asked by the event’s organizers to serve as a “marshal,” which she described as a fairly routine practice during protests, and had used the fastest, most direct route to get to the west side of the Historic Court House after noticing a huge commotion had started, and one of her “peers” was being arrested. She just wanted to make sure he was okay, Griffin testified.
Cross testified that Griffin had been “sprinting” toward the area of the arrest, which he perceived as a threat, though he acknowledged under cross-examination by Griffin’s defense attorneys that the defendant hadn’t threatened him, in the usual sense of the term. “She was a potential threat because I didn’t know her intentions,” Cross testified Wednesday.
Griffin’s defense attorneys contended that Kevin Harrison, the Alamance County assistant district attorney who is prosecuting most of the 2020 protest cases, had failed to show substantial evidence of the crime.
Harrison countered that Griffin “had never been stopped from doing what she was there to do, as she described it,” and that she had made “movements to get past the officers,” which taken in context with her sprinting could’ve reasonably been perceived as attempting to intervene in the other arrest.
Griffin was convicted of resisting an officer and ordered to pay a $200 fine and court costs.
She was also convicted of second-degree trespass over her refusal to move from a sidewalk at the entrance to the Alamance County jail to a grassy strip adjacent to the jail parking line, parallel to West Pine Street, on November 16.
Alamance County sheriff’s major David Sykes testified Wednesday that, in order to keep the parking lot and jail entrance unobstructed, the grassy strip had been designated for protesters to wait while arrestees were processed and released.
Griffin and other demonstrators had gone to the jail to await the release of three protesters who were arrested after barging into a county commissioners meeting while it was in progress at the Historic Court House earlier in the evening of November 16, she testified Wednesday.
Retired visiting district court judge Lunsford Long, III of Orange County found guilty Griffin of that charge, as well, asking the defendant rhetorically why she hadn’t just followed the instructions she was given. She was ordered to pay a $50 fine and court costs.
Griffin’s attorney Jamie Lowdermilk of the Brooks Pierce law firm gave notice of her client’s intent to file an appeal at the conclusion of the trial. (Griffin was also represented by Patrick Morgan of Morgan & Cesanelli Law.)
Rikeah Nashea Johnson, 22, race unspecified, female, of 1711 Vanderbilt Court, Graham, was also scheduled for a trial in district court on Wednesday for allegedly resisting an officer during a protest in Court Square on September 26, 2020. She had allegedly “attempted to pull another subject who was under arrest away from the arresting officers.” The other subject whose arrest had been underway at the time was identified during Johnson’s trial on Wednesday as Harvey, whom she described as her then-boyfriend.
Johnson testified that she had put her arms around Harvey, as a show of support, and hadn’t intended in any way to interfere with the arrest.
Long found Johnson not guilty, agreeing with her defense attorney, Jamie Paulen of Paulen Solidarity Law, that neither the testimony by sheriff’s deputies nor the evidence showed that Johnson had intended to interfere with the arrest.
Harrison previously dismissed an earlier charge of resisting an officer against Johnson on April 7 because a subpoena for the arresting Graham police officer had been returned unserved.
Avery Markel Harvey, 30, black, male, 314 Field Street, Graham, was found guilty of impeding traffic during a protest in Court Square on September 26; a charge of disorderly conduct from the same event was dismissed. He was ordered to pay a $50 fine and court costs.
Harvey, however, was found not guilty of resisting a Graham police officer who testified that he had instructed him to return to a designated protest area that had been roped off near Sesquicentenial Park on the afternoon of October 31, 2020, about an hour or two after the march and rally had ended that afternoon.
Long declared Harvey not guilty of the October 31 charge, saying it was “overbroad enforcement” to expect protesters to remain in the roped-off area indefinitely.
Harrison had previously dismissed a September 5, 2020 assault charge against Harvey after the victim failed to appear in district court to testify at the trial on April 7.
Harvey had also been charged with: disorderly conduct for allegedly shouting, “[Expletive] y’all” at counter-protesters on Saturday, September 26; failure to disperse during the march and rally on Saturday, October 31; and disorderly conduct on Sunday, December 13 for allegedly posing himself in a manner “indicating willingness to fight” and yelling, “[Expletive] you, what you going to do” at three men near Sesquicentennial Park that afternoon. Two other men who were involved in the altercation on December 13 were charged with similar offenses, according to the Graham police department.
Robert Horace Butler, 56, white, male, of 2128 U.S. Highway 64 East, Pittsboro, was charged with disorderly conduct and voluntarily pleaded guilty at a hearing in district court earlier this year; he received a prayer for judgment continued, based on his court file.
Eddie Moore Mercer, Jr., 71, white, male, of 830 Monroe Holt Road, Graham, was charged with assaulting Harvey on December 13.
After a backroom conference with several “cross-defendants” and “cross-victims,” including Harvey and Mercer, Harrison said that both men had signed documents stating that they did not wish to proceed with the two remaining cases in the December 13 incident.
Harvey had also been listed as the victim in two other cases, which all parties had agreed to drop Wednesday afternoon, Harrison said.
The assistant D.A. also said he would dismiss an assault case against Judy Elaine Stuart, 60, white, female, 6833 Beale Road in Snow Camp, who had been charged with assaulting
Harvey on September 21, by allegedly striking him in the chest with her elbow and directing a racial slur at him, according to a criminal summons that was served on Stuart at the time.
Harrison said he would dismiss an October 22 charge of assault with a deadly weapon against Michael Joseph Wardwell, a 50-year-old male of 3150 Beaver Creek Road in Burlington. Harvey was also the alleged victim in that case, based on court documents; both men agreed Wednesday to dismiss the case, based on Harrison’s statements to the judge after returning to open court.
Wardwell told an Alamance News reporter Wednesday afternoon that his vehicle had been the alleged deadly weapon, though he said he’d never touched Harvey, who was in the crosswalk by the Verdict restaurant during the incident in question. Harvey and Wardwell exchanged pleasantries and the two men hugged before leaving the courtroom Wednesday afternoon.
Harrison subsequently confirmed for The Alamance News that he had dismissed a charge of resisting a public officer against the newspaper’s reporter, Tomas Murawski (see related story).
Also found not guilty Wednesday was Elizabeth Duford, 46, white, female, of 104 Edgehill Place, Chapel Hill, who had been charged with resisting a public officer, for allegedly attempting to intervene in the arrest of another protester on September 26, 2020.
See story on charges being dismissed on May 26, 2021 against Alamance News reporter who was covering the October 31, 2020 march and protest at the Historic Court House: https://alamancenews.com/charges-against-alamance-news-reporter-dropped/