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UPDATE: An Open Letter from WWAY to Dist. Attorney Rex Gore re: ADA Erin Holden's performance

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UPDATE (7/28): RESPONSE FROM THE NC STATE BAR:

Good afternoon, Mr. Pickey. Tom Lunsford asked me to respond to your email.

The materials you sent indicate that you are investigating concerns your news organization has about the preparedness and effectiveness of a particular assistant district attorney.

You have asked the State Bar to help you “understand more about these cases.”

27 NCAC 1B .0129 provides that any grievance is confidential unless and until one of several things happens, most commonly either that the State Bar’s Grievance Committee imposes public discipline or that the Office of Counsel files a complaint in the Disciplinary Hearing Commission. Because neither of these things has happened, the State Bar is prohibited by 27 NCAC 1B .0129 from indicating whether any grievance file has been opened or whether any investigation is underway in connection with the cases that are the subject of your inquiry.

If you are asking more broadly for the State Bar to express an opinion about the cases that are the subject of your inquiry, I am afraid it would not be appropriate for the State Bar to do that. The State Bar is a state agency charged with the duty of enforcing the Rules of Professional Conduct. The State Bar is not empowered to express an opinion about what could or should have happened in a case. The State Bar does have an Ethics Counsel who issues opinions only about how an inquiring lawyer should conduct himself or herself in the future. The Ethics Counsel does not issue opinions about whether any lawyer’s past conduct (including the past conduct of the inquiring lawyer) violates the Rules of Professional Conduct and does not issue opinions about how a lawyer other than the inquiring lawyer should conduct himself or herself in the future. The reason the State Bar cannot issue an opinion in response to such an inquiry is that the inquiry includes only one side of the story and the lawyer whose conduct is being called into question has not had an opportunity to present his or her view of the matter or to present any facts he or she might believe are pertinent to the inquiry.

I hope this information about the State Bar will be helpful to you.

Katherine E. Jean
Counsel
North Carolina State Bar
P.O. Box 25908
Raleigh, North Carolina 27611-5908

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UPDATE (7/26): Since we haven't heard from Mr. Gore after emailing him this letter on the 21st, we've now contacted the North Carolina State Bar for help understanding what's going on in Brunswick County. We'll keep you posted on its response.

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July 21, 2010

Mr. Rex Gore
District Attorney
North Carolina District 13
310 Government Center Drive
Bolivia, NC 28422

RE: An open letter request for interview

Dear Mr. Gore:

Over the past two months, this TV station has reported a number of stories highlighting the questionable performance of Assistant District Attorney Erin Holden.

For example, as we understand thus far:

> In June, Ms. Holden was not prepared for a hearing involving a DWI conviction appeal from Oak Island Fire Chief John House. The Highway Patrol says House blew a .14 at a checkpoint, almost twice the legal limit of .08. Holden tried to call in sick the morning of the hearing, but a judge ordered her to come in anyway. At the hearing, she told the court she subpoenaed the wrong trooper to testify but could call the correct trooper and that he could be in court that afternoon. Later, however, we talked with the trooper she said she meant to subpoena. He told us he was never contacted by your office. She then asked Judge Ola Lewis for a continuance, but Judge Lewis dismissed the case because Ms. Holden wasn't ready to go - causing your office to have to file an appeal with the state. The dismissal also cleared Chief House of his DWI conviction to date.

Afterwards, you issued the following statement, "“Erin [Holden] made a mistake in obtaining a needed witness for the hearing that was calendared for the morning session of court. She took actions to cure her error and would have been in position to proceed in the afternoon. The court was made aware of this situation. The court called the case for hearing at approximately 12:30 p.m. When the state was not able to proceed, the motion to suppress was granted prior to that time. This is an unfortunate happenstance. However, I am sure everyone involved made decisions they felt were appropriate under the circumstances and at the time."

> A few weeks later, Ms. Holden represented the state in a case against Mark Twain Patrick, II. Court papers show he was drinking and driving a stolen motorcycle and when an officer went to pull him over, Mr. Patrick tried to run. He was charged with a DWI (he blew .04), reckless driving, stealing the bike and trying to run from police. First Ms. Holden went to present evidence for the DWI charge. The officer who pulled him over reported that Mr. Patrick was driving on the wrong side of the road, wouldn't stop for blue lights and sirens, smelled like he'd been drinking and admitted he was on Percocet, but the charge got thrown out for lack of evidence.

On the other felony charges, paperwork shows Ms. Holden voluntarily dismissed the reckless driving charge from the lower District Court, because, according to legal experts we talked with, she thought she had a stronger case with the other charges in Superior Court. To convict Mr. Patrick on fleeing from the officer, Ms. Holden had to prove two things: first that he was driving recklessly and second that he was driving with a revoked license. Ms. Holden requested Mr. Patrick's driving record from the state, which does show it had been revoked. But for some reason Ms. Holden couldn't satisfy the court with enough evidence that it had been revoked, even though the paperwork clearly shows it is, so that charge got dropped down to a misdemeanor.

All in all, when this hearing started Mr. Patrick faced his fifth DWI charge and two other felony charges. But after the dust settled, all he got was a traffic ticket, three days in jail and he's now on probation.

> And finally, Ms. Holden chose to dismiss strangling charges against Gary Ray Jones last week during a probable cause hearing after her request for a continuance was denied. Mr. Jones was then released from jail a free man. Less than a week later, a grand jury indicted him on the charges, but now, Jones is no where to be found.

Mr. Gore, these are just examples from the past two months! Why did Ms. Holden let Jones out of jail instead of attempting to keep him there for a matter of a few days until the grand jury met? Why was Ms. Holden so unprepared for the House hearing that the case had to be dismissed and your office had to file a rare appeal with the state? Why did Ms. Holden allow Mr. Patrick to leave the courtroom with only a traffic ticket and three days in jail?

We have concerns about Ms. Holden's ability to be a effective ADA and would like to request - again - that you and she sit down with us and help us understand what led to these outcomes. Multiple officers of the court in Brunswick County have told us repeatedly she's inept, bordering on incompetent (those are their words) - and they're concerned she's not getting the job done. Can you guarantee us 100% that she's effectively serving the people of your district and that she has your full support? Our viewers and the people who voted for you to be D.A. would like to know.

Sincerely,

Scott Pickey
News Director
WWAY-TV
spickey@wwaytv3.com

Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.

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Erin Holden in Columbus County

Maybe Scott Pickey needs to come to the Columbus County courthouse and see Erin Holden. All that the Great Rex Gore did was get the heat off her be moving her to Columbus County. I am a law enforcement officer in Columbus County and I have seen first hand what Erin Holden is doing. I watched her dismiss criminal case after criminal case. I watched her set court date for defendants on dates that wasn't the charging officers court date, meaning the officer won't be there because it wasn't their assigned court date. If an officer does not receive a subpoena they won't show up and if the officer doesn't show up she dismisses the case. I have around 12 cases that have been set on dates other than my court date and I am yet ti receive a subpoena. We the officers are the ones out on the streets everyday and every night trying to keep the criminals off the street and here we are with Erin Holden sending them out free. So please Channel 3 check into this women who has no care for the law.

An Open Letter to Scott Pickey

Scott, why are you the only reporter on this website without a biography filled out? As a reporter aren't you a public figure too? Shouldn't you tell us a bit about yourself so we can dig into your background and post unflattering things about your character?

I don't know who is in charge of this organization, but it is not even close to being considered a credible media source...can't believe that Pickey and the rest of these muckrakers actually get paid to "report" this "news."

Keep up the good work Scott

I'm sure you understand, Scott, that there will always be people on both side of the fence on just about every subject. You guys are doing a fine job. Besides, having an open fourm like you do here and allowing anyone to post shows just how much people like to be a smarta$$. It's not so much a stab at you as it is some smug nay-sayer patting himself on the back for being the first one to have the sharpest comment.

Great Job "News Director"

Pickey, did you even check to see what the State Bar does? Of course you didn't, or you would know better. Great legal advice your getting. Make sue you say "Thank You" when the subpoena arrives.

Reporting News or Creating It?

I thought that a TV station was supposed to report on the news, not create it, and certainly not make itself the center of it? Who do you people think you are, and why in the world are you so bent on destroying the career of a young girl who has never done anything to you and is probably working for peanuts as a public servant just trying to do the best she can? This is rediculous and WWAY should be ashamed of itself.

I agree completely. It

I agree completely. It appears they are so hell-bent on reporting some big scandal, that that they are making the proverbial mountain of a molehill. They are becoming the news rather than objectively reporting it. I guess they're trying to make up for losing in the ratings? And yes, these prosecutors are working for the state, being overworked, and making a fraction of what their peers earn in private practice.

What in the world can the NC

What in the world can the NC State Bar do about this? Do your research, WWAY.

WWAY's obsession with

WWAY's obsession with impugning Ms. Holden's reputation is disturbing. As a result of WWAY's obvious vendetta against Ms. Holden, I can't find anything that WWAY reports about Ms. Holden to be credible.

Sad Journalism

When did it become the job of a news agency to make a complaint or put forth questions to the state bar?

Erin Holder

Don't know if Ms. Holder competent or not, but I say, "Thank God for incompetent prosecutors!" Wish we had more of 'em.

Erin Holden, Not All of the problem

Maybe you folks at the news center should be looking at morn then just Holden. Like the other elected officials in the court room dismissing these charges. Any pattern there? Or maybe a pattern could be found in the actions of the outgoing (finally) DA. Just saying!!!!

Erin Holden

I am a criminal defense attorney and I have found myself defending clients many times over the past couple of years in cases that were prosecuted by Ms. Holden. I have never found her to be anything less than professional and competent in her handling of those cases. I have also watched her prosecute many other cases that I was not involved with, and she has always performed quite competently in those, too.

I do not know anything about the three cases that are referenced in the letter above. I do know that I have had jury trials begin without all of the State's witnesses being present. This is actually quite common. A trial will begin with jury selection on one day, and then testimony might begin the following day. As I was not there that day, I am not sure why that didn't happen in the House case.

The second case involving Mr. Patrick sounds like it was a DWI with a .04 blow and some evidence of Percocet use. Proving a DWI based on a substance other than alcohol can be difficult. There would almost certainly need to have been a blood test to determine how much Percocet was in his system. There would need to be a Drug Recognition Expert to testify as to what the effects of that amount of Percocet would have on the body. I don't know what evidence was available to the State in that case, but it would not surprise me at all if they did not have a blood test. Without a blood test, it would be very difficult to prove how much Percocet was in his system. It is rather common for DWI cases that involve substances other than alcohol to be dismissed because of a lack of evidence.

The last case you reference involved a probable cause hearing. You state that Ms. Holden tried to have the case continued. It is not always easy for the State to line up witnesses for a probable cause hearing. It may very well have been the case that the victim or some other essential witness was not available that day for the hearing. If that was what happened, Ms. Holden did the right thing by trying to continue the case. When her motion to continue was denied, she would have been left with no other option than to dismiss the case if an essential witness was not present.

Again, I don't know what happened with these cases because I was not involved with the cases or present at the time of the hearings. However, I can say that it is not very likely that the results in those cases occurred as a result of incompetence on Ms. Holden's part. She has always struck me as thoughtful and careful in her handling of criminal matters and respectful of the responsibilities that go along with her job.

Supporting Holden

Holden may be the best Assistant DA in the county, but all it takes is just one example of poor performance, ugh I mean two, oophs, maybe three, ....... well never mind.

letter to rex gore

No offense Mr Moore (?), but no one asked you to answer the letter to Rex Gore. He should be able to do that himself and so should Ms Holden.
As you said , you weren't there. It's best not to make excuses for other people's poor job performance.
These people broke the law and were not charged.
If they drive drunk and kill someone next week there will be an excuse for that also, yet someone's loved on could be dead. Offenders need punished BEFORE they kill someone just like the man charged with strangling another person. Now he is out there hiding from the law, perhaps next door to your family.
Don't make excuses.
The public wants answers from Rex Gore and ms Holden NOT from a third uninvolved party

You've got to be kidding me!

Mr. Moore you must be out of your mind. Ms. Holden is more concerned with her shoes more than her cases. Speaking as one of the Law Enforecment Officers in Brunswick County she does not contain any of the qualities you have described. Especially professional conduct. I don't think I have ever seen you in court or I don't even seem to be able to place you. Get down to earth with the real people and tell the truth or can you? I seem to remember a great movie several years ago "Liar, Liar"! Just like used car salesmen you seem to stick together don't you? Just make the deal man!

Thanks for the insight Gumshoe,

Especially since it is no longer Detective Gumshoe. Stick to singing to the Choir.

If Ms. Holden were not an

If Ms. Holden were not an attractive female, no one would be making comments about how much she cares about her shoes. Shame on you.

Shoes?

Who do you think we are? We the Law Enforcement community of Brunswick County are sick and tired of Ms.Holden and her stupid strutting ways. She's not that good looking anyway. She is a legend in her own mind and can't pass a mirror without looking good to herself! If I were to buy her for what she's worth and to sell her for what she thinks she's worth I would not have to work another day in my life! Stupid is as stupid does!

If you are truly a member of law enforcement

Then I am extremely grateful not to be living in Brunswick county. The tone of your comment is innappropriate for any adult member of a community much less for someone who has chosen a profession to serve and protect. Nice example your setting.

You undermine your own

You undermine your own credibility by commenting about her shoes. If you kept it above board, people might listen more to what you have to say. As soon as you went there, I decided not to take you seriously.

sounds like someones just

sounds like someones just jealous or has had an experience with the law that did not go in there favor. Stick with the issues at hand and stop personally attacking Ms. Holden.

Scott

you wrote the letter to the wrong party. If you honestly have the best interests of the citizens in mind, you should contact the North Carolina State Bar; give them the facts you've outlined; and request an investigation as to her competence and that of her superior, Mr. Gore.

Or contact the State Attorney General.

Gore will be out of office in January. Do you honestly think he will taje your letter seriously?

Put some teeth in your effort. Let he & the Assistant DA know you are not taking this matter lightly. In doing so, you may set new professional standards which the incoming DA will have to meet & which may be required in other counties.

Ball's in your court now.

IF ALL OF YOU COULD READ,

IF ALL OF YOU COULD READ, YOU WOULD HAVE NOTICED THAT THE VERY FIRST PARAGRAPH SAYS THEY HAVE NOW CONTACTED THE NC STATE BAR....GUESS IT'S MORE FUN TO MAKE THEM LOOK LIKE THE IDIOTS INSTEAD OF YOU, HUH?

Chowderhead

apparently you can not read or comprehend. Look at the time line you twit.

On 07/21, I suggested the State Bar be contacted with a request the matter be reviewed. I even noted forms could be downloaded from the state bar website in an earlier post.

Finally, on 07/26, they contacted the State Bar.

Are you one of those annonymous posters who takes a shot at me whenever you can without even reading my post?

Or do you just not understand dates?

Better luck next time.

You're right, I did not pay

You're right, I did not pay attention to the different dates. I apologize. At least I am enough of a "twit" and a "chowderhead?" to admit it. Those were some real grown up words there by the way.

Tom

I'm one of those annonymous posters who takes shots at you but after I read your posts and only if I don't agree with you (without calling you names) as you can see in my post below (Read).So that should show you I take shots when I think your wrong and not every time your wrong or I would never leave this site, (Sorry,I took a shot,couldn't help myself) I can also defend you when your right.(Could have taken anouther shot but I controlled myself that time)
Also,you make too big a deal about annonymous.What if I gave you my name you wouldn't know me,and what if you did what would you do? It's not like you are giving out your name even when you say people in Surf City know who you are most people don't so your annonymous to what,maybe more than 99% of the people.Give your full name and I will give mine.

Guest, you don't get it

I have problems with annonymous posters who do nothing but post and do not take steps to correct an issue. I made enough stink over drunk drivers, and made a few calls to Raleigh and voila one of the top law enforcement guys came down over the 4th; they focused on DWI incidents and look how many were ticketed and hopefully there will be a reduction in future drunk drivers accidents.

Look at all of the people who posted against Senator Soles, Rex Gore, Pender County's Health Director. They use rumor and innuendo; they never really post anything but second hand gossip and hear say; and do not have the stones to go to a higher level to resolve the problem.

Look at that Pender County organization, with its smiley, little Director. They were putting a dog in the fight. They made wild charges and innuendo statements. One school principal was suspended thanks to her; and once his name was cleared, he resigned. Look at all the guff she threw at the school board. After all the time and money spent to review and investigate her allegations; nothing was found. And neither she or her organization have had the decency to apologize.

I have problems with annonymous posters who try to defend huffers and drinking drivers when there is no defense and they have nothing redeeming about them.

I also have a problem when someone responds to an intelligent post, and there are others beside me who do some research and think before they post, without even reading or understanding the post.

And I do have a problem with weasels who make charges against someone, as they did against the Pender County Health Director, screened from the camera. Somewhere, there's supposed to be the right to face your accusers.

I also think, if you go back and look, I have made very few references to unidentifiable posters. An exception might have been the little pimplehead who was going to wring my neck after I posted about the huffing driver and her pending day in court.

Before I post, I normally have read the N&O, Wall Street Journal, Star News, & Civitas. Look back at some of my posts -- particularly the ones on state government when the legislature went back in session to work on the budget. I posted very specific numbers and salaries for many of the state agencies. I still do not understand why nearly every state agency has at least one staff attorney; and consider the AG office in theory is the State's attorney and available to any state agency for counsel.

I still do not understand, in the budget environment which our state is in, with a THREE BILLION DOLLAR deficit facing the Legislature next term, how the head of the Lottery Commission and the Director of the State Art Museum EACH get paid over $250,000 annually. Heck, they make more than the Governor.

No one's perfect. If they were, in my religous beliefs, we'd all better be getting ready to make a final journey. Some will ascend; some will not.

See what happens. I have many faults. Lacking passion and the willingness to put in the time necessary to attempt to correct issues or at least keep the focus on the relevance of a topic is not something you'll find in me. & they do know me in Surf City.

Tom

Thank you for the explanation,but I sure more than 99% of the posters on here do nothing but post including Guesty and Common,whom by the way are annonymous.I don't have a problem with that because thats what this is for,commenting ,not to fix the world.

How did I get dragged into this???

I am quite active off these message boards. No, you won't see me swinging a hammer for Habitat for Humanity, or hanging around a Tea Party rally, but both McIntyre and Burr know me while Purdue and Hagan likely wish they didn't. I've had a very blessed life which allows me to be active in a low-key, behind-the-scene way. Few know my face, but many people and organizations I support know my credit card number and/or signature.

Regarding those who do nothing more than post, however, it's important that we never underestimate the power of a factual, concise, well-written messge board posting. It can force a reader to wonder, to wander, to waiver, to eventually think outside their traditional comfort box, and help the reader formulate a different opinion than the one he or she had prior to the reading....

...plus, I really like to tick off the crazies and sappy sob-sisters.

And you know this how?

So you know the extent of my community involvement guest77? I think not. Did you ever think that maybe I hold a sensitive position and it wouldn't be advantageous for my identity to be known? You really shouldn't speak (or post) things in which you have no clue.