DA: Racist conversations by fired WPD officers didn’t break state law

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The New Hanover County District Attorney’s Office says no state charges will be filed against three former Wilmington police officers.

Officers James Gilmore, Jesse Moore, and Kevin Piner were recently fired by the Wilmington Police Department after a routine audit of police video revealed explicit racist and violent conversations between the officers.

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“The language was vile and repugnant and has no place anywhere in our society,” District Attorney Ben David wrote in a letter to Police Chief Donny Williams. “They have tarnished the badge and damaged the trust that men and women of law enforcement fight every day to earn and maintain.”

In an investigation by the DA’s office, it was the determined that the former officers are “Giglio” impaired, meaning they cannot be called as witnesses for the state in criminal cases going forward.

“Due to the officers’ evident bias against African Americans, we can no longer rely upon them in the fair and impartial administration of justice,” David wrote.

The DA’s office has reviewed each of the 90 pending cases involving the three officers. 70 of them were dismissed, but were still proceeding with a handful where they could rely on the testimony of other witnesses.

David addressed whether the videotape is enough, standing alone, to warrant criminal charges. The answer is no.

“Words alone – spoken in private, not intended by the speaker to be heard by the person whom the speaker is victimizing, and not part of a plan that the speaker and others have agreed upon – cannot constitute a crime for which someone can be arrested or prosecuted,” David wrote.

David wrote there is no law in North Carolina that would authorize criminal prosecution under this set of facts because of the protections regarding free speech that are enshrined in the First Amendment.

“These three officers shared their hatreds only in private—as cowards are wont to do—and did not take any discernible overt acts that furthered their violent fantasies,” David wrote. “The recording of these words was not intended by the speakers to be disseminated or heard by anyone, including the targets of their hatred. This point is made obvious by the fact that Piner immediately shut off the video when Moore inquired about whether their conversations were being accidentally recorded.”

David is now calling for a federal investigation.

Read the complete letter here.

We will have more on this tonight on WWAY News.