Defense attorney rejects judge’s offer to consolidate sentencing into just three days of community service; instead, she enters notice of appeal to superior court
Regis Kishon (“Shon”) Green, 29, black, male, of 4600 University Drive, Durham, was found guilty Wednesday of misdemeanor disorderly conduct in a public building and resisting arrest for a disruption that had prompted Alamance County’s commissioners to prematurely recess their meeting on November 16, 2020.
Alamance County assistant district attorney Kevin Harrison announced at the outset of Wednesday’s proceedings in district court that he was dismissing a charge of disrupting an official meeting against Green and two other defendants who were arrested the same night.
Green described himself as a caretaker for intellectually-disabled children and adults and a 2015 graduate of East Carolina University, where he earned his degrees in psychology and business administration. In his spare time, Green said he mentors kids in his hometown, Rocky Mount; coaches youth sports; and performs as a singer and musician.
See other coverage in this edition: “One convicted, two charges dismissed in protest at county commissioners’ meeting November 16”: https://alamancenews.com/one-protester-who-disrupted-nov-commissioner-meeting-found-guilty-charges-against-two-others-dismissed/
Under direct examination by his attorney, Jamie Paulen of Paulen Solidarity Law, Green testified that he and other activists had gone to the commissioners’ meeting that night to speak against what he referred to as “the injustice,” which he specified as the use of pepper spray by law enforcement during the “I am Change Legacy March to the Polls” and rally in downtown Graham on October 31, 2020. Green was among a total of 23 people arrested October 31. (Also arrested that day was Alamance News reporter Tomas Murawski, who had been covering the event for the newspaper and was charged with resisting, delaying, or obstructing an officer.)
Green’s case in the October 31 charge was among one of the first to be heard when the 2020 protest trials began in Alamance County district court on February 17 of this year.
Retired visiting district court judge Lunsford Long, III of Orange County found him guilty, concluding that “fair warning was given, and he stayed.”
Long continued sentencing for the earlier conviction until he could hear the evidence for the November 16 charge against Green.
Paulen moved to dismiss, contending that the misdemeanor statement of charges alleged that Green had resisted, delayed, and obstructed a public officer by refusing to place his hands behind his back while deputies were attempting to arrest him was “too much of a variance” from the statutory elements of the charge and factually insufficient.
Long denied that motion, as well as Paulen’s second motion to dismiss the charge of disorderly conduct in a public building. Green had been accused of yelling a profanity, “[Expletive] you,” as he exited the commissioners meeting that night, based on video footage presented during his trial Wednesday.
North Carolina case law says that expletives are not offensive speech, the defense attorney argued, specifying that she had been referring to an order entered last month by a federal district court judge for the middle district of North Carolina, which stipulates that the use of profanity is protected under the First Amendment and do not constitute lawful grounds for arrest, unless they meet the legal definition of “fighting words.”
Green testified Wednesday that everything started off peacefully when he and his fellow activists arrived at the Historic Court House that night. He said he and three other men who were with him had a pleasant chat with the female deputy who was stationed at the security vestibule on the first floor entrance to the building. “We were told we had to remove our bulletproof vests,” which they did, Green testified.
Green said that neither he nor the other three men had any idea that they could be heard inside the commissioners’ meeting as proceeded up the stairs to the second floor. “We were quietly walking in and trying to find a place to sit,” he testified Wednesday. “There was no commotion or interruption of the meeting at all. We were just trying to hurry up and find a seat.” He said there were no obvious markings directing them where to sit to comply with Covid-19 social distancing requirements.
His defense attorney insisted at several points during the trial that Alamance County chief deputy Cliff Parker zeroed in on Green as soon as he arrived at the meeting. “Deputy Parker began to antagonize me, pointing at me, laughing at me,” Green testified. “It prompted me to deliver my speech on the way out.”
Though barely audible, a recording from the November 16 that was presented Wednesday – but minus a 30-minute gap between the time that Green and the other three men arrived, around 8:25 p.m. and when the meeting was recessed at 9:00 p.m. – captured the defendant saying, “[Expletive] you” and making a rude hand gesture as he exited the courtroom.
What the recording apparently did not capture was the chaos that erupted in the hallway just outside the courtroom. Defense witnesses repeatedly described that Green had been descended upon, at all sides, by Alamance County sheriff’s deputies before he went airborne; landed headfirst on the tile and concrete floor; and was punched in the back by a deputy.
None of the witnesses were able to testify to having seen the chain of events firsthand due to the number of deputies who they said had crowded into the roughly 10-foot by 15-foot vestibule outside the second floor courtroom at the Historic Court House.
“They lifted him and he went up and was inverted before he went down,” said Anne Elizabeth Williams, who also was taken to the ground and arrested seconds later. “The video gets jumpy, but you can see the commotion of them coming at him.”
Harrison called nine sheriff’s deputies to testify during all three trials on Wednesday. Three testified, in response to Paulen, that it was neither a part of their training nor standard practice for the Alamance County sheriff’s office to punch an arrestee when he’s on the ground, in handcuffs, as she described. All of the deputies, including one who had helped take Green into custody, testified that they had not punched Green in the back, as Paulen alleged.
Harrison countered during his closing statement that it was “an absolute mischaracterization to say he just said, ‘[Expletive] you’ and walked out.” Green being angry does not constitute a legal defense, he said.
There was no direct testimony other than Green’s and that of the officers, Harrison said, pointing to what he described as inconsistency in Green’s testimony. The defendant couldn’t say specifically he was punched; instead, Green said he “felt hands everywhere” but couldn’t identify whose, the assistant D.A. added. He knew law enforcement was there; multiple deputies testified they told him to put his hands behind his back, said Harrison.
Long acknowledged that deputy Earl Alston, who’s been in law enforcement 21 years, was aware of what was going on in front of him, and he testified that Green was resisting arrest.
Long also found Green guilty of resisting. “I think your behavior was uncalled for and unjustified,” he said, noting that he was torn in rendering a verdict. “I think you were angry but not as angry as you could be.”
The judge offered to consolidate the judgments for both of Green’s convictions on the October 31 and November 16 charges, in exchange for 24 hours’ community service and payment of fines and court costs. Green’s attorney rejected that offer and gave formal notice of his intent to appeal his convictions to superior court.