: Publisher's note: If anyone finds fault with the veracity of these well considered words by former Chief Deputy Harry Meredith, we implore you to please take issue with what Mr. Meredith considers to be true right here on BCN, either by comment or by posted article, and you will receive all the space that is reasonable to refute these allegations.
These articles from Chief Deputy Harry Meredith, Ret. are showing a consistent pattern of data, and an intent to express what he believes to be true. The entirety of these ongoing posts can be found archived here.
Part I: Federal Judge finds Beaufort County Sheriff Ernie Coleman untruthful in settlement phase of Michael Sheppard lawsuit can be found here.
I had the opportunity to talk with Michael Sheppard a couple of days ago to see if he could add anything to the article I wrote about Sheriff Coleman being untruthful on the witness stand in front of a federal judge. I thought I had most of the details, but Michael added a few more troubling points about the Sheriff and his Office.
As I stated in Part I, the Sheriff eventually terminated Michael's employment with the Sheriff's Office because Michael refused to remain quiet when a white Deputy pointed his service weapon at a black deputy and called him the N-word. Michael immediately reported the incident to Lt. Kelly Cox because the Deputy that pointed a gun was Michael's Sergeant. The Sergeant had pointed his service weapon at his own head on other occasions after taking the magazine out but leaving a live round in the chamber. This action bothered several Deputies that witnessed it. Neither the Command Staff nor the Sheriff took any disciplinary action against this Sergeant.
One month after the incident, the Sheriff demoted Michael without explanation and transferred him to Narcotics under Lt. Russell Davenport. Michael asked why he was doing this and was told to shut up. Michael said he knew the reason for his demotion and transfer was because he would not remain silent.
The Sheriff terminated Franks. Shortly after that the Sheriff terminated Michael. The Sheriff did not want to hear what Michael had to say. Rose told Michael he was being terminated because he would not forget what happened to Franks. Sgt. Ragland was not punished for pointing his handgun at Franks.
During the court hearings, Ernie kept saying the incident was "bull shit"
. Ernie was asked if he ordered the incident investigated. Ernie said he did not because the incident was "bull shit"
in his opinion.
During the deposition phase of the lawsuit Ernie referred to himself in the 3rd person. Michael's attorney asked him if he always talked that way but no answer was given. Ernie wanted to focus on Michael's bad background and bad family but never provided any evidence to support that claim. Ernie did not want to settle because he considered the entire incident "all bull shit"
. Ernie stated again he did not conduct an internal investigation.
Ernie's attorney and Michael's attorney reached a settlement agreement, and Ernie's attorney informed the judge. Ernie claimed he had no knowledge of his attorney's actions. His attorneys filed paperwork to void the settlement, but the Judge did not want to do that. The Judge set a hearing date to determine what happened. He wanted to hear directly from Ernie and his attorney.
At some point prior to the hearing, Ernie's attorney became aware of how Ernie planned to testify. Because Ernie's attorney attended the settlement hearings with Ernie, he became a witness against Ernie. The county had to hire a third attorney to represent Ernie.
On the stand, Ernie denied any knowledge of the $150,000.00 offer. The Judge reminded Ernie he was under oath. The Judge asked the question again and once again Ernie denied any knowledge of the offer. The Judge then gave him another chance to consider his testimony. Ernie stated again he had no knowledge of the offer. The Judge told Ernie to step off the stand and watch his step as he left. Ernie told the Judge he had more to say. The Judge again told him to step off the stand and Ernie did. When Ernie got back to the table with his lawyer he sat down, then stood to speak. His attorney grabbed him and pulled him down.
Judge Dever did not seal the information in this case. He wanted the public to see how this North Carolina Sheriff acted in court. He found Ernie's conduct "disturbing"
according to Michael. Ernie's attorney testified against Ernie's interest and the Judge found Ernie "not credible"
Early on, Ernie engaged in a smear campaign against Michael to discredit him. Chief Deputy Charlie Rose admitted he had no evidence to support the claims. With Charlie on the stand, Michael's attorney asked him about racing on Highway 17 Bypass. Charlie admitted racing the Tahoe and Charger, with another Deputy, from Washington to Chocowinity on the Bypass. The loser had to buy Mountain Dews for everyone. Can you imagine what the young, impressionable Deputies are doing on county roads with this type of leadership from Chief Deputy Rose? Drive defensively and keep a look out for speeding patrol cars.
Ernie punished two Deputies that reported racist, dangerous behavior performed by a superior officer and did not punished the Sergeant that committed those acts. How does this impact a young Deputy's thinking? He is being taught that telling the truth will get him punished. He has also learned that lying in court has no penalty. Can the public trust any Deputy's testimony under the current Sheriff? What will a defense attorney do with this information?
"You cannot heal in the same environment that made you sick."
I put that in quotes because those are not my words. Ernie will continue to poison the minds of Deputies and, unfortunately, nothing in that agency will get better under the present lack of leadership.
Harry W. Meredith, Jr.