Part 3: A look at previous traffic and criminal charges filed against Burlington mayoral and city council candidates
[Editor’s Note: This is the third of three stories in this week’s edition looking at the legal issues that various candidates for Burlington mayor and city council have faced.
[The Alamance News undertook the review as a part of its biennial election coverage. Burlington candidates have the earliest date with voters, a primary on October 5 which will allow voters to whittle the five candidates for mayor to the top two who will face off on November 2; similarly voters will choose among six city council candidates, winnowing that list to the top four from whom voters will choose the final two on November 2.
Note: the newspaper did not attempt to contact any of the 11 candidates individually, relying instead entirely on the public record information contained within each story.]
A criminal court record isn’t necessarily a barrier to political office – and it certainly hasn’t discouraged some of Burlington’s would-be politicos from taking their chances in this year’s municipal elections.
According to publicly available information, several of the 11 candidates for Burlington’s mayor and city council have had run-ins with law enforcement in North Carolina. Most of these legal entanglements have involved traffic infractions and other minor offenses, although a couple of this year’s office seekers have also incurred misdemeanor convictions.
One of the lengthier court records in this year’s election belongs to city council candidate Dejuana Warren Bigelow, who was found guilty of five misdemeanor offenses between 2001 and 2011. A single misdemeanor conviction has also followed current city councilman and mayoral candidate Jim Butler due to a hunting citation he received some 36 years ago.
Criminal court records for any adult who has a run-in with law enforcement in North Carolina are readily available at the Judge J.B. Allen Jr. Court House in Graham.
The facility’s public access computers can be used to search for both pending and closed court cases in any of the state’s 100 counties, regarding offenses that range from motor vehicle infractions to Class A felonies. The court system’s database provides details about each charge that a defendant incurred, regardless of whether it was upheld or dismissed.
Information about more serious offenses is also available from the N.C. Department of Correction, whose online search engine can be used to find sentencing details for adults who’ve been convicted of felonies and certain misdemeanors.
[Editor’s Note: The Alamance News undertook the review as a part of its biennial election coverage. Burlington candidates have the earliest date with voters, a primary on October 5 which will allow voters to whittle the five candidates for mayor to the top two who will face off on November 2; similarly voters will choose among six city council candidates, winnowing that list to the top four from whom voters will choose the final two on November 2.
Note: the newspaper did not attempt to contact any of the 11 candidates individually, relying instead entirely on the public record information contained within the story.]
City council candidate Dejuana Warren Bigelow has most extensive record
Of the 11 individuals who are running for elected office in Burlington, the only one who pops up in the NCDOC’s database is Dejuana Warren Bigelow. The 39-year-old city council candidate has accrued a handful of misdemeanor convictions under her maiden name Warren – none of which carried a penalty more serious than probation or a suspended jail sentence.
Bigelow’s acquaintance with the NCDOC began in February of 2001 when she pleaded guilty to an act of misdemeanor larceny that occurred in December of 2000. According to the NCDOC, the future city council candidate received a suspended jail sentence and was placed on probation for this offense.
Bigelow received another suspended sentence and an accompanying stint on probation in June of 2001 after she pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of failing to return rental property back in September of 2000.
In March of 2004, the now-candidate entered another guilty plea to an act of “wanton injury to personal property” that reportedly occurred the previous summer. Bigelow once again received a suspended sentence and a probationary stint for this offense.
Bigelow’s most recent entry in the NCDOC’s files dates back to 2011. In December of that year, she pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor offenses of assault on a government officer and resisting a public officer that she had incurred in August 2009. As with her previous convictions, these guilty pleas resulted in a period of probation and a suspended sentence.
According to the court file for this particular case, a judge ultimately dismissed a second charge of resisting a public officer that Bigelow had received at the same time.
Detailed information for each case that Bigelow has on record with the Department of Correction is publicly available at the Judge J.B. Allen, Jr. Court House in Graham. The facility’s computer database also catalogs a number of other, less serious charges that have been lodged against the city council contender.
Bigelow’s earliest entry in this criminal database comes from 1999, when she stood accused of communicating threats until a judged tossed out the allegation that August.
In June of 2002, a judge in Alamance County addressed a whole grab bag of charges that Bigelow had incurred over the past year and a half.
According to information in the county’s criminal database, the judge agreed to defer judgment on a charge of driving with a revoked license from the previous December. Bigelow also entered guilty pleas to another charge of driving with a revoked license that she incurred in January of 2002 and a charge of resisting a public officer that she received at the same time.
The judge who presided over this omnibus hearing went on to dismiss five other charges from various dates in 2001 and 2002. These allegations included having an expired registration or tag, driving without a license in one’s possession, speeding at a rate of 54 miles an hour in a 35 mile an hour zone, and two separate charges of driving without vehicle insurance.
In January of 2004, the future city council candidate received a deferred judgment after she pleaded guilty to having a fictitious, concealed, or revoked registration card or tag. The court went on to dismiss two contradictory charges of having an expired registration card or tag and having no registration card at all – both of which appear to stem from the same traffic stop in November of 2003.
Between 2007 and 2013, courts in Alamance County also dismissed a number of other charges that Bigelow incurred during that period. These alleged violations include charges of driving or allowing someone to drive a vehicle with no registration and of having a fictitious, concealed, or revoked registration card or tag – both of which were dropped in June of 2007.
In December of 2009, a judge dismissed a charge of having an expired registration card or tag; while a rear lamp violation and a charge of having no registration card were dropped in August of 2013. Then, in October of 2014, a judge tossed out an expired registration charge as well as a charge of driving with an expired or nonexistent inspection sticker.
In addition to these Alamance County offenses, the county’s criminal database also contains information on charges that Bigelow received in Guilford County.
These entries include a conviction in February of 2005 for driving or allowing a motor vehicle to be driven without registration and a speeding charge for allegedly going 64-miles an hour in a 45-mile-an-hour zone that was reduced to improper equipment in February of 2011.
Meanwhile, in November of 2011, a judge in Guilford County dismissed a charge that Bigelow had received for allegedly aiding and abetting impaired driving.
The only Burlington candidate other than Bigelow with a misdemeanor conviction in North Carolina is city councilman Jim Butler, 56.
According to the county’s criminal database, Butler received a hunting citation in Guilford County that led to his misdemeanor conviction for taking a protected migratory bird in August of 1985, when Butler was about 20 years old. The court went on to dismiss an accompanying charge of hunting with a firearm on a Sunday.
In 1993, Butler obtained a deferred judgment in Guilford County after he pleaded guilty to failing to keep proper odometer statements. The court dropped two accompanying charges that Butler received for allegedly accepting or delivering a certificate of title in blank and for failing to deliver proper license fees or apply in proper time.
The city councilmember’s most recent court appearance occurred in June of 2013 when a judge in Forsyth County dismissed two citations that he had received for having an expired registration card or tag and having an expired or non-existent inspection sticker.
Other Burlington candidates
Alamance County’s criminal database also contains information on charges filed against other office seekers in Burlington.
Among those with a mark or two on their records is Burlington’s Ian Baltutis. According to court records, the 36-year-old office holder was pulled over for speeding in Guilford County more than a decade ago and received a citation for going 62 miles an hour in a 45-mile-an-hour zone.
Baltutis was also cited for allegedly having an expired vehicle registration card or tag. Court records indicate that the speeding charge was ultimately reduced to improper equipment in March of 2011, while the registration offense was dismissed altogether.
Another mayoral candidate who appears in the county’s criminal database is attorney and local historian Walter Boyd. According to court records, the 65-year-old office seeker was cited in Alamance County with operating a vehicle with no insurance and with having a concealed, revoked, or suspended certificate of title or tag. Both of these offenses were dismissed in April of 2014. A subsequent charge for having an expired registration card or tag was also dismissed in October of 2018.
The county’s criminal database also includes entries for mayoral candidate Donna Vanhook. According to court records, the 52-year-old office seeker was cited for an expired registration tag or card in Alamance County, only to have the charge dismissed in October of 1995. In August of 2011, a court in Guilford County docked Vanhook for improper equipment after she received a speeding citation for allegedly going 73 miles an hour in a 55-mile an hour zone. Another Guilford County speeding charge for going 44 miles an hour in a 25-mile-an-hour school zone was ultimately dismissed in July of 2014.
The most recent entry in the county’s criminal database concerns city council candidate Charlie Beasley. According to court records, the 36-year-old council hopeful was cited for a window tinting violation on August 3 of this year.
This case is currently scheduled to be adjudicated in September. Prior to this pending citation, Beasley was pulled over for speeding at a rate of 74 miles an hour in a 55-mile-an-hour zone – a charge that was reduced to 64 in a 55 in December of 2007.
A little less than a year later, Beasley received a deferred judgment when he went to court for allegedly going 82-miles-an-hour in a 65-mile-an-hour zone – a charge that was ultimately reduced to 74 in a 65.
A search of the county’s criminal database does not appear to contain any entries for mayoral candidate Caleb J. Massey or for city council candidates Bob Byrd, Wendy Jordan, Harold Owen, or Ronnie Wall.