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In a move that has shocked the local community, Granville County’s Grand Jury returned indictments Monday against Sheriff Brindell Wilkins for two counts of felony obstruction of justice.
Sheriff Wilkins, who has served as Granville County Sheriff since 2009 and was recently reelected in 2018, will now stand trial on charges stemming from a recorded conversation in 2014 with an unidentified individual regarding the potential homicide of former Granville County Sheriff’s Deputy Joshua Freeman.
The outcome of the indictment follows an investigation that began in November 2018 when the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) received a recording provided by District Attorney Michael D. Waters. DA Water serves the 9th Prosecutorial District, including Granville, Vance, Warren, Franklin and Person counties.
In a letter to the Honorable N. Lorrin Freeman, district attorney of Wake County, dated November 14, 2018, DA Waters states that while still in private practice as an attorney in 2014, he received a recording believed to involve Sheriff Wilkins, while representing Joshua Freeman as a client.
Believing he had a conflict in the matter, DA Waters requested that DA Freeman adopt the case.
In response, DA Freeman stated in a letter to the SBI that the recording “contains a conversation between two individuals, one of whom appears to be the Granville County Sheriff, about a former deputy sheriff and culminates in a discussion about committing a homicide.”
The discussed homicide was not carried out.
According to a press release provided by DA Freeman’s office, Sheriff Wilkins was voluntarily served with the indictments by agents with the SBI, assisted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and processed on the charges.
The Bill of Indictment, which is now a matter of public record, indicates that on or about August 12, 2014, Sheriff Wilkins “unlawfully, willfully and feloniously did obstruct public and legal justice by withholding knowledge of credible threat made by an individual known to the Sheriff to imminently kill Joshua Freeman at a certain place and time in Granville County.”
“Defendant failed to properly execute his duties because of his personal animosity towards Joshua Freeman, who defendant was told had expressed an intention to publicly disclose to authorities a purported audio recording of the defendant using racially offensive language.”
The indictment bill further states that Sheriff Wilkins expressly encouraged the individual also involved in the conversation to “take care of it” and “if you need to take care of somethin’, you just take care of something” and that “the only way you gonna stop him is kill him,” in regards to Joshua Freeman.
Sheriff Wilkins further appears to counsel the individual on how to commit the murder in a manner as to avoid identification including informing him that “you ain’t got the weapon, you ain’t got nothing to go on” and “the only way we find out these murder things is people talk. You can’t tell nobody nothin’, not a thing.”
Sheriff Wilkins then appeared to provide assurances to the individual that he would not reveal to any investigation authorities, thought to be the Granville County Sheriff’s Office investigators, any prior knowledge he had as to the individual’s expressed intention to kill Joshua Freeman, according to the bill.
Following the indictment, Sheriff Wilkins appeared before a magistrate and was released on a $20,000 unsecured bond.
Granville County Manager Michael Felts and County Attorney James C. Wrenn, Jr. were notified by Sheriff Wilkins of his indictment on two counts of obstruction of justice Monday afternoon after 5 p.m., according to a press release issued by Wrenn’s office.
The press release also states that Wrenn was called by DA Freeman yesterday at approximately 5:30 p.m. and briefed on the charges.
The Granville County Board of Commissioners, though lacking supervisory authority over the Sheriff, were also notified yesterday evening and held an emergency called meeting at 7:30 a.m. this morning to discuss the matter.
“As this situation unfolds, the Board hopes that all parties involved remember that the focus must remain on the welfare of the citizens of Granville County. All involved must prioritize the need to maintain the public trust and faith in the effective and unbiased enforcement of laws and administration of justice in Granville County. Like all people charged with a criminal offense, Sheriff Wilkins is entitled to a presumption of innocence,” the release states.
Sheriff Wilkins first court date will be October 9, 2019, at 9:30 a.m. in Granville County.
Decisions about Sheriff Wilkin’s position, particularly if he will remain on-duty, remain unknown at this time. As would be the case in this incident, a change to an elected official’s status is subject to a judiciary process.
A second investigation into allegations concerning the Granville County Sheriff’s Office’s accounting practices and controlled substance interdiction efforts remains pending.
A press conference will be held by Attorney Wrenn today (Tuesday, September 17, 2019) at 4 p.m. at the Granville Expo & Convention Center in the auditorium. The Granville Expo & Convention Center is located at 4185 Highway 15 South, Oxford, NC 27565.
WIZS will provide additional information as it becomes available.