Part I: Federal Judge finds Beaufort County Sheriff Ernie Coleman untruthful in settlement phase of Michael Sheppard lawsuit | Beaufort County Now | Coleman loses both cases brought against him in Federal court

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The following is the first in a series published by written by Harry Meredith, Jr.  Check back later for other articles in this series. 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.

By Harry W. Meredith, Jr.

I have been following the Sheppard case and the Franks case the last couple of years with a somewhat dispassionate interest. The wheels of justice grind and they do grind slow.
For those of you that have a life, I will quickly summarize the events up to present day. In 2016 or so, Deputy Franks alleged a hostile work environment claiming the Sheriff and others used racially charged language a number of times. The words boy, n*****, monkey boy, and rhino lining referring to Frank's hair were used just to name a few. Also, one of the Deputies pointed his loaded service weapon at Franks' head in the Deputy room and called him a n*****. Several other Deputies witnessed this incident. Sheriff Coleman also referred to Franks as "deeply psychotic". Sheppard reported this behavior through his chain of command, but no action was taken.

On February 8, 2017, Sheriff Coleman told Deputy Sheppard he planned to fire Deputy Franks because he was "psychotic". Sheppard told Coleman that Franks had been subjected to a hostile and racist work environment. Coleman terminated Franks soon after that conversation.

The information above was taken from court records October 7, 2019, case number 4:19-cv-86-D that I could access on the internet.

On February 10, 2017, Chief Deputy Rose and Sheriff Coleman were waiting for Sheppard when he reported for duty at 6:00PM. Coleman told Sheppard he was aware of the complaint involving Franks. Coleman asked Sheppard why he still worked at the BCSO if he thought the Command staff were racists. Sheppard denied this. Coleman wished him good luck and left. Sheppard, apparently alone with the Chief Deputy, then resigned instead of facing termination. Sheppard recorded the entire conversation on his phone.

The information above was taken from court records in the same court case

So, we have a bi-racial Deputy, Franks, claiming a hostile work environment due to racist language and hostile actions. We also have a white Deputy, Sheppard, that stood up to the Sheriff. Sheppard did not like the racist behavior of some Deputies, and Coleman it seems either approved or turned a blind eye to those actions. Both Deputies were separated.

Sheriff Coleman began a campaign to smear Franks. Some of the information released by Coleman's attorneys may be true; it may not be true. The attack was long and complete. Also, Coleman denied in the media several times there was any truth to claims of a hostile work environment and any other points touched on in the paragraphs above.

Before I get into the heart of this article, I ask where are the other Deputies that witnessed these words and actions? My guess is after seeing what happened to Franks and Sheppard, they did not hear or see anything. While writing this article, I heard that subpoenas were issued for those unnamed Deputies to force their testimony.

Lawsuits were filed by Sheppard and Franks that have dragged on to present day. Franks' lawsuit still languishes, but his lawyer has dollar signs in his eyes now. Coleman was represented by a stellar legal team from probably the largest law firm in North Carolina at the expense of the taxpayers. He also has an insurance carrier that will foot the bill too. Will this cost the taxpayers more money in the future? There are more than 400 lawyers associated with the firm representing Coleman if nothing has changed. There were two lawyers working on the case at several hundred dollars an hour each. Unfortunately, Sheppard had to represent himself it seems early in this proceeding.

Well, David prevailed over Goliath and the same can be said of this match too. From a quick reading of part of the court documents, it looks as if Sheppard received somewhere between $150,000.00 to $200,000.00 and maybe some other considerations but that is hard to tell without the entire case notes.

It looks like Sheppard and Franks will be vindicated in this matter.

Here is the big news:

"At the evidentiary hearing, Spaugh (one of Sheriff Coleman's attorneys) testified that on April 6, 2021, Coleman authorized him to offer $150,000.00 as part of negotiations at the court-hosted settlement conference. Coleman, in direct contradiction, testified that no one ever told him that $150,000.00 was the amount being offered at that settlement conference. The court finds Coleman's testimony not credible and credits Spaugh's testimony."

The above paragraph was taken from the court documents in part

Again, THE COURT FINDS COLEMAN'S TESTIMONY NOT CREDIBLE AND CREDITS SPAUGH'S TESTIMONY. The Sheriff likes the phrase "in laymen's terms. So, in laymen's terms, the Sheriff of Beaufort County does not tell the truth in court. ****Another update to this fiasco just came to my attention while writing this. Sheriff Coleman was, in fact, sworn when he made a false statement to the court. The Judge gave him an opportunity to correct his testimony. Coleman refused. The Judge dismissed him without hearing anything further from the Sheriff.****

Well now, the Sheriff's own lawyer testified against the interests of his client. A Federal Court Judge found the Sheriff of Beaufort County is "not credible". He is probably the last one to learn this. Sheriff Coleman's actions may cause a problem in other lawsuits. In common law, there is a principle that states "false in one thing, false in everything". A witness that testifies falsely about one matter is NOT CREDIBLE to testify about any matter.

It looks like we are going to have a Sheriff that claims to be a Conservative, Christian, Constitutional Officer that is untruthful in federal court proceedings running for another term. He has read to the Commissioners several times that he only answers to the people. Do the people want a Sheriff that will give untruthful testimony in court?

Here is the final question. Can a Sheriff be removed or disqualified from Office for a felony conviction?

The word testimony indicates he was sworn. His conduct brings disgrace to his Office, and by association, to all of the Sheriffs in NC. It will take years to remove the stain from the good name of Beaufort County. His actions the last seven years have led directly to this point.

The Commissioners only control the Sheriff's budget. Perhaps the Commissioners should stand in support of Michael Sheppard and the other Deputies that are too afraid to speak and say this type of behavior and aggression will not be tolerated. Some elected officials must stand for the taxpayer and the rights of the brave Deputies that stay with the county in the face of arbitrary ridicule and punishment from Sheriff Coleman.

Have Sheriff Offices in North Carolina, possibly even Beaufort County's Sheriff Office, become too political in the discharging of their sworn constitutional duties?
  No, the sheriff is a constitutional officer.
  Yes, the Sheriff Office, on strong occasion, often reverts back to political patronage in the dispensation of their sworn constitutional duties.
  I feel that heavy politics, and law enforcement is a strange marriage of dutiful aspirations.
373 total vote(s)     What's your Opinion?

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