In A Rare Move, Judge Removes Prosecutor For 'Willful Misconduct'
A judge in western North Carolina this week did something rare: He ordered the removal of an elected district attorney.
Greg Newman had been the district attorney for Henderson, Polk and Transylvania counties. But this week, a judge stripped him of the job because of "willful misconduct" and "conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice which brings the office into disrepute."
It's only the third time in state history that's happened.
"It is rare. And as a public, we should be glad that it's rare," said Shea Denning, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law. But she says many other prosecutor misconduct cases never get this far.
"To say that they're that this has only happened three times somewhat mischaracterizes the landscape, because there have been other situations in which district attorneys have resigned from office," she said.
Newman was appointed by then-Gov. Pat McCrory in 2013 and reelected in 2014 and 2018 when he was the only candidate on the ballot. But he faced a wave of criticism from crime victims and their families. They alleged that Newman mishandled cases and failed to prosecute felonies.
In one case, a rape victim said Newman failed to tell her that her assailant's case was scheduled for court. She had hoped to testify. According to Judge Robert Ervin's order, when the man appeared in court to plead guilty to a lesser charge, Newman told the judge the victim did not want to be heard.
Ervin's order also says Newman later lied when questioned about his actions, and lied or misrepresented his handling of another case for which he eventually was reprimanded by the North Carolina State Bar. Those lies were at the center of Ervin's decision, Denning said.
"But the things that ultimately the court found as the basis for removal were misstatements, falsehoods to both judges and the State Bar," she said.
In a statement, Newman's lawyer said: "He's been extremely honored to have served the people of Henderson, Polk and Transylvania counties since 2013. His office has achieved a number of accomplishments that have kept the people of his judicial district safe and he looks forward to continuing to serve his constituents in some capacity. "
The lawyer said Newman is still licensed and practicing law.
UPDATE: On Monday, Gov. Roy Cooper appointed former U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray to replace Newman as interim district attorney.