By Jonathan Austin
Yancey County News
Published Oct. 27, 2011
A Yancey County News investigation suggests that numerous county residents were arrested and facing serious felony charges last year, only to later have those charges either dismissed or dramatically reduced in court. One man - charged with taking a car for a test drive and selling it while he was gone – was, according to corrections records, in prison at the time the car was taken.
The individuals, most with a history of criminal convictions, had at least three things in common: their arrests were highly publicized by law agencies, the charges were later dropped or drastically reduced, and they voted in the 2010 general election.
The most serious questionable case might be from November 2010 involving then-21-year-old Bradley Dean Carpenter of Green Mountain. According to law enforcement press releases published or broadcast in local media at the time, deputies arrested Carpenter and charged him with one count of felonious obtaining property by false pretenses. Then-Yancey County Chief Deputy Thomas L. Farmer said at the time that Carpenter was accused of taking a car for a test drive at a local dealership then selling the car as if it were his own.
Records from the Yancey County Clerk of Court’s office show that Carpenter was arrested Nov. 3, 2010, though the same records show that the incident had been reported 11 months earlier on Dec. 1, 2009.
But North Carolina Department of Corrections records report that Carpenter was behind bars on Dec. 1, 2009, so it is difficult to reason how he could have taken and sold the car. He went to jail on July 21, 2009, when his probation was revoked, according to DOC records, and he was behind bars until Jan, 27, 2010.
Carpenter – a repeat petty criminal - later voted absentee one-stop in the general election. The felony charges were later dropped by the district attorney, court records show.
In another case, deputies arrested Robbie Jean Brown, 53, and charged her with felony sale and delivery of a Schedule II prescription drug and possession with intent to sell and deliver a prescription drug. The arrest was made Sept. 30, 2010, by the chief deputy after he said she sold the drug from her residence. Brown, who had been convicted of six previous felonies and spent time in prison in 2007 and 2008, was released from the Yancey County Detention Center after posting a $6,000 secured bond. She was scheduled to appear in Yancey County District Court on October 25, 2010, but the case was transferred to Superior Court and she was able to vote in person on Nov. 2. The charges were dismissed by the district attorney in May.
Brown was arrested again in August 2011 on felony charges of possession, sale and delivery of drugs. Those charges have been transferred to Superior Court where she is awaiting trial.
Another case involved a Green Mountain man charged June 15, 2010, with sexual battery, preparing an obscene photograph and felony dissemination of obscene material to a minor under the age of 16.
Henry Blaine Rogers, who was 20 at the time, was also charged the next month with willful injury to personal property.
He appeared in court Aug. 24, 2010, where the felony charge was dropped and he was convicted of the injury to personal property charge, a misdemeanor, as well as misdemeanor preparing an obscene photograph. He received probation and a suspended sentence, registered to vote on Oct. 10, 2010, and voted absentee one-stop. He also avoided being listed as a sex offender.
Jason Kimball Cooper, 33, was charged with possession of stolen property and obtaining property by false pretenses. According to media reports at the time, Farmer said Cooper was arrested after being accused of selling jewelry that had been stolen from a Green Mountain residence in July 2010.
The jewelry items were recovered and returned to their owner. Cooper was released on $6,000 bond, and was scheduled to appear in District Court in August 2010. Department of Corrections records show no conviction, however, and he voted absentee one-stop in the general election.
Cooper was arrested again earlier this month on drug charges and was jailed under $80,000 secured bond.
Jonah David Teal, 25, was arrested on July 28, 2010, by Burnsville Police, accused of trying to pass a forged check at a local business. That charge apparently was dropped because there is no record of it in Department of Corrections records. However, he was convicted in March on charges of breaking and entering and larceny of a motor vehicle dating back to late October 2010. Both were misdemeanor convictions, and he voted in person on Nov. 2.
Deputies arrested Ricky Eugene Foreman, 42, of Pensacola, in July 2010 and charged him with growing marijuana in his home, a felony, and felony maintaining a dwelling to keep a controlled substance.
State records show Foreman had two prior felony convictions involving marijuana. He was scheduled to appear in District Court in late August, and he registered to vote Oct. 28 and voted absentee one-stop. In January the felonies were reduced to misdemeanor possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia and he was given probation.
Farmer arrested Christopher Elliott on Sept. 17, 2010, on charges of felony intent to sell and deliver Oxycodone, felony maintaining a vehicle to deliver Oxycodone and felony possession of Oxycodone. Seven days later the felony counts were no where to be seen as Elliott pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors: possession of a Schedule II drug and possession of drug paraphernalia, and received a suspended sentence. He voted absentee by mail in the general election.
His brother, James Ray Elliott, was charged in January 2011 with 17 counts of felony forgery and 14 counts of felony uttering forged checks.
Farmer said at the time that Elliott obtained hundreds of dollars in the scheme. He was jail under a $62,000 secured bond, but the charges were reduced to four misdemeanors for which he was sentenced to probation. James Elliott had voted on Election Day, just days before Farmer said the investigation began into the forgeries.
Authorities later arrested the brothers, along with 67-year-old William Daniel Elliott, on a variety of felony charges after officers said they were caught with 112 Oxycodone pills in their possession. They were supposed to have a Sept. 13. court date.
One month ago, authorities identified Christopher Elliott as “one of the top (drug) dealers in the area” and arrested him at his Satinwood Drive home. He and his brother were accused of transporting Oxycodone across state lines to sell in Yancey County.
Recent headlines have reported the many people arrested by county and town authorities on drug charges, and an undeniable fact in many of these cases is that the accused were willing to turn out to cast a ballot in the 2010 general election. They include Deonna Mae Murray, Gerald Douglas Styles, Caleb Lee Black, Jennifer Nicole Fowler, David Reed Greene, Charles Cecil Burgin, Jessica Lynn Crain, Briton Lee Chaney, Murph Nathan Angel, Holly Caravano, Edd Robinson, Michael Dale Carroll, Linda Gail McCurry, Charles Robert Hensley, and Joni Boings Laws.
In addition, numerous individuals on the docket for the upcoming Nov. 15 session of Superior Court share the common denominator of being arrested and having voted in 2010. They include James Tim Cooper, Jason K. Cooper, Jamie Smith Deyton, Ezra Norris Franklin, Timothy Felix Harris, Zachary James Hensley, Charles Levell Hicks, Paul Daniel Hughes, Donna Marie Huskins, Leonard Antonio McFalls, Angie Louise Noblett, John David Street, Shannon Marie Valentine, Orin John Wilson II, and Jerry Lee Woody. The last on that list is a convicted habitual felon who has served more than six years in prison, been convicted of 22 felonies, and was expected to have remained in prison until last week.