Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Judge Brown’s & Attorney Covington’s Disgraceful Conduct

Liestoppers Meeting has a “conversation” going about the publication of retired Durham District Court judge Craig Brown's book. I hope you’ll drop in on the "conversation" here.

LM’s “conversation" remained me that Brown and attorney J. Wesley (Was) Covington, a defendant in the civil suits brought by victims of the Duke-Durham frame-up attempt, are long-time friends who each have a disgraceful professional history.

At the NC State Bar’s website you find the following summary disciplinary notice from 2000. Brown is not mentioned but he’s the judge involved who signed off on everything you’re about to read:

Following a trial in October 1999, three Durham attorneys were disciplined by the DHC for their roles in resolving a DWI case in the back hall of the Durham County Courthouse in September 1998.

J. Wesley Covington’s law license was suspended for three years, and all but 180 days of the suspension was stayed for five years on various conditions. The law license of Ralph B. Strickland was suspended for three years, and all but 120 days of the suspension was stayed for five years on various conditions. Brian Beasley, the third defendant, was reprimanded by the DHC.

The commission found, inter alia, that Covington facilitated and participated in the disposition of the DWI case by entering a judgment of careless and reckless driving in a courthouse hallway, even though the defendant had not been charged with careless and reckless driving.

The commission also found that Covington arranged the absence of a material witness. The DHC found that Strickland agreed to entry of the judgment of careless and reckless driving in the DWI case, but that he was not present when the case was actually resolved. Finally, the commission found that Beasley assisted in entering the judgment of careless and reckless driving in the DWI case.
On May 6, 2000 the Raleigh N&O reported:
The state Supreme Court on Friday ordered that District Court Judge Craig Brown be censured for his handling of two drunken-driving cases.

In a unanimous opinion, the justices said the evidence against Brown clearly showed that his actions in one of the cases, the back-hallway dismissal of a drunken-driving charge against Kenneth Podger, a Durham dentist, "unquestionably warrants censure," and that Brown had overstepped his authority and had engaged in misconduct.

"We will not condone his conduct," the court wrote. "It is deserving of our harshest criticism." …

Noting that Brown is the only judge to be censured in modern times, Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson of Durham said: "It brings to end an ugly chapter in Durham judicial history."

The case exposed the inner workings of the Durham courthouse, revealing close ties between a powerful attorney, J. Wesley Covington, and the District Attorney's Office.

The N.C. State Bar suspended Covington's law license along with that of the assistant district attorney who helped set up the Podger deal, Ralph Strickland.

The State Bureau of Investigation is still looking into two other cases involving Brown and Covington where old drunken-driving convictions were thrown out and felony records were erased.

In the Podger case, the dentist spun out on the Durham Freeway in 1998. He registered nearly twice the legal limit on an alcohol-breath test and had two prior alcohol-related driving charges, one within seven years of the 1998 charge.

Normally Podger would have gone to jail, but instead, in a back hallway without a court clerk and key witnesses present, Brown accepted a plea to a lesser charge - careless and reckless driving - a violation of state law.

But nearly a week before the case was handled, a young lawyer, Bill Fleming, said he witnessed Brown and Covington, Podger's attorney, strike a deal to improperly reduce the DWI for a $10,000 fee.

On the advice of Orange District Attorney Carl Fox, Fleming called the SBI. He told the agency that he knew how the case would be resolved - two days before it went to court.

The Supreme Court said the evidence supported Fleming's claims and showed that Brown had an unlawful meeting with Covington. …
The entire N&O story’s here. (reg. req’d)

On Aug. 16, 2007 newswire.com reported:
Following on the heels of the recent scandal involving Durham Prosecutor Mike Nifong’s handling of the Duke Rape Case, a Durham family court judge acted today to imperil the life of an innocent eleven year old boy.

After hearing testimony in a trial last week from a former FBI agent and a retired colonel from the Colombian DAS (FBI) that travel to Colombia would be life-threatening for Alejandro Ramirez, age eleven, Judge Craig B. Brown nonetheless ordered the boy to visit his estranged, abusive and non-supportive biological father in Colombia.

The judge announced his decision mid-way through the trial via a newspaper interview with reporter John Stevenson of the Durham Herald-Sun Newspaper. The newspaper article was published today.
(bold added)

The former FBI agent, Mr. Michael Youngs of Miami, Florida, and Colonel Homero Rodriquez-Garcia of the Colombian DAS gave graphic testimony about the many dangers prevalent in Colombia. They testified that travel to Colombia would put Alejandro at grave risk of kidnapping by guerillas or others because he is from a well-known, wealthy U.S. family.

Reputable witnesses also testified that the biological father has threatened to kidnap the boy if he is forced to return to Colombia.

There is an official U.S. State Department travel advisory warning in effect for Colombia. Colombia is rife with kidnapping, narco-terrorism, guerilla warfare and general lawlessness. Malaria and other deadly tropical diseases are prevalent in much of the country. …
The rest of the newswire story’s here.

Also in 2007 Covington was for a second time subject to State Bar discipline but the Bar did not disbar him. You can read about the Bar’s action on this page at its site.

Those of you with an appreciation for irony should be sure to go to the top of the page where you’ll read the Bar’s announcement of Mike Nifong's disbarment.


Tom said...

This proves that Brown is motivated by one thing....MONEY
How much is Nifong paying him to write the book?