DA: Racist conversations by fired Wilmington officers didn’t break NC law, calls for federal investigation

State - Regional

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WWAY/CBS) — The New Hanover County District Attorney’s Office said no 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.

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

“There’s little question, I don’t think any question, that if you listen to the words and hear what was said, that we clearly have an issue with bias and prejudice with these officers, and because of that, in the interest of justice, I’m dismissing every case where we’re going to have to rely on them to prove it,” District Attorney Ben David said. “If evidence comes to our attention that questions an officer’s credibility, or that they might have a racial bias or motive, then we are going to immediately take steps to make sure they don’t testify again.”

The DA’s office has reviewed each of the 90 pending cases involving the three officers. 70 of them were dismissed, but 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.

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.

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

David is now calling for a federal investigation.

“We have requested a federal investigation to see if any of these laws that frankly, can be more expansive at times when referring to hate crimes, apply,” David said.

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