The judge decided after closed-door hearing that
the additional conditions sought were too broad
Rev. Greg Drumwright’s legal team won an initial skirmish in the ongoing legal battle following his arrest on October 31 and the additional charges filed by the Alamance County sheriff’s department.
Drumwright led a march on Sunday, stopping at the Judge J.B. Allen, Jr. Court House on West Elm Street, pointing to it as a “house of injustice” for the treatment he said black and Hispanic residents of Alamance County receive there.
Wednesday afternoon, Drumwright himself was inside that same courthouse at a special hearing called the previous day by the Alamance County district attorney’s office to consider the D.A.’s request to add as a condition of Drumwright’s bond that he not be allowed on county property “other than when he’s attending court” while his charges are pending.
Outside the courtroom earlier, prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump heralded Drumwright’s efforts. [See separate story this edition.]
But it was another Drumwright attorney, Jason Keith, who successfully argued against the D.A.’s motion, which was argued by assistant district attorney Kevin Harrison.
[The Alamance News and all other media were barred from the courtroom by visiting district court judge Fred Wilkins. See separate story in this edition. What is reported about the discussion is gleaned from the few people who were inside.]
Wilkins told participants that only Drumwright, his attorneys and their staff, and court and law enforcement personnel were to be allowed inside the courtroom.
In fact, the judge instructed other defendants, who were already present in the courtroom for their own “first appearances” to leave the courtroom when he turned to the motion on Drumwright’s case; they were directed into an adjacent courtroom to wait until Wilkins was finished with the Drumwright matter; the hearing took about 40 minutes.
At the conclusion, Wilkins ruled against the state’s motion to add conditions to Drumwright’s bond, determining that “county property” was too broad a prohibition to impose since that would include all schools, the department of social services, or other county agencies. The D.A. had apparently intended primarily to address his appearance at county property in Graham, such as the Historic Court House in Court Square or the Allen Court House where the hearing took place.
Drumwright’s charges remain
Drumwright was charged with two felonies and three misdemeanors after an October 31 march & rally in Graham that was ended amid pepper spray after deputies discovered two gas cans and a gas-powered generator (to power his microphone); the generator was a violation of his permit (which specified only a battery-powered generator could be used) and that officials said endangered the public.
When deputies discovered that Drumwright’s supporters had brought the gas cans and a generator onto courthouse property, though explicitly prohibited by the permit Drumwright had signed, they stated that the event was over and ordered the crowd to disperse.
When they refused, deputies – and later Graham police – used pepper spray to force the crowd to leave the courthouse grounds and the downtown area. Graham police had earlier also used pepper spray to force demonstrators out of the road around Court Square, which was supposed to remain open to traffic, based on criteria the police had outlined to Drumwright and to which, they insist, he had agreed.
Drumwright was initially charged with misdemeanor failure to disperse after law enforcement instructed him to leave the property, after learning he had violated the facilities use agreement he had signed to use the courthouse grounds for his rally on Halloween day.
The four new charges filed later include: felony obstruction of justice and felony assault on an officer, plus additional misdemeanor charges for inciting a riot and resisting, obstructing, and delaying a law enforcement officer.
This past Sunday’s march had as its theme police and criminal justice reform, with Drumwright focusing on what he considers to be the harsh and unfair treatment he and his supporters received when pepper spray was used at the October 31 event and when he and 22 others were arrested.
Story continues below photographs.
During Sunday’s march and during various stops where he made remarks, Drumwright also repeated his calls for the resignations of Alamance County sheriff Terry Johnson and Graham police chief Kristy Cole. Drumwright often uses the terms “tear gas, “chemical agents,” or “chemical weapons” interchangeably in describing the use of pepper spray on October 31.
During one of Sunday’s stops, in front of the Allen courthouse, a dozen or so of Drumwright’s supporters attempted to prevent this newspaper’s reporter, publisher Tom Boney, Jr., from taking pictures or videotaping Drumwright’s remarks. [See editorial in this edition.]
Nationally famous civil rights attorney Ben Crump was with Drumwright at a press conference before and after the court hearing Wednesday afternoon, but it was the lower-keyed attorney, Jason Keith, who actually did most of the talking during the hearing, according to what the newspaper could learn of the proceedings.
Crump has represented high-profile clients across the country, including the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown.
[Editor’s Note: Alamance News reporter Tomas Murawski was also among the 23 people arrested during the October 31 event; Murawski was taking photographs of the first person arrested that day by Graham police for failing to clear the roadway when he became the second to be arrested. Graham police arrested 8 people that day; the sheriff’s office arrested 15 others.]