Thursday, August 18, 2005

It's good to be the Governor

North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley has refused to pardon a man he put behind bars when he was a prosecutor even though the man was freed from prison after the victims recanted their testimony.

Easley denied the petition of Sylvester Smith, 54, who was convicted in 1984 for first degree rape and two counts of first degree sexual offense. At the same time, however, the governor pardoned Leo Waters, 56, of New Bern, who served 21 years in prison for a 1981 rape. He was freed on the basis of new DNA evidence.

A judge ordered Smith released from prison in November. The accusers, who were 5 and 6 at the time of the trial, recanted their earlier testimony and said their grandmother told them to say Smith was responsible for the abuse rather than their 9-year-old cousin. The cousin, who can't be prosecuted because of his age at the time of the crime, is serving a life prison sentence for murder. The grandmother has died.

Smith won a new trial and a prosecutor dismissed the charges.

Smith said Easley had a conflict of interest because he prosecuted the case when he was district attorney in Brunswick County. "I don't think he's man enough to say he made a mistake," Smith said.

Can't admit a mistake? Sounds like perfect training for the White House. Can you say President Easley? Easley for President - so tough on crime he won't pardon innocent people!

Not to be outdone, Gov. Bob Taft, charged with four misdemeanors counts of ethics violations on Wednesday is expected to enter a no contest plea, a legal fiction that really is a guilt plea, Thursday, wrapping up the case less than 24 hours after it was filed. Taft, whose great-grandfather was President and later Chief Justice William Howard Taft, will also apologize to the Citizens of Ohio. It is unclear if he will apologize only for getting caught.

Taft was accused of failing to report 52 gifts, including dinners, golf games and professional hockey tickets. The gifts were worth about $5,800 and given over four years. Prosecutor Ron O'Brien said the gifts included two golf outings worth $100 each paid for by embattled coin dealer Tom Noe. Noe is a Republican fundraiser whose $50 million investment of state money in rare coins launched the scandal. Noe has acknowledged that up to $13 million is missing from the rare coins fund, and Attorney General Jim Petro has accused him of stealing as much as $4 million.

They should have charged Taft with felony stupidity and the Curmudgeon should get into the rare coin investment business as long as my investor is my governor and golf partner. For a couple of hundred dollars and 3 strokes a side I can make $4 to $13 million? When's our tee time Gov. Blagojevich?


Blogger Capt. Fogg said...

It's nothing new - remember Herrera v. Collins? maybe you're too young, but ten years after his sentence of death, Hererra filed for habeas relief arguing that newly discovered evidence proved he was innocent. Unfortunately, Texas law requires that a request for a new trial based upon new evidence must be made within 30 days of the imposition of sentence. Herrera was a decade too late. Innocence, at least in Texas, is no excuse. Lots of people have died for our sins and lots more would if the rabble could get their hands on them. You should read the comments in my daily paper and how the crowd calls for the accused to be torn to pieces long before the trial has begun.

11:14 AM  
Blogger d.K. said...

embattled coin dealer Tom Noe

I wonder if anyone else in history has ever earned the moniker, "embattled coin dealer?" I love it. Your blog is always great substantively, but I confess I check it out for the guaranteed grins too :) Keep it up!

8:53 PM  
Blogger Nathan Denny said...

I don't think Gov. Easley belongs in the same company as Taft.

The hometown Raleigh News & Observer and other local media here in NC shed a little more light on this case than the AP story that is being run by most major news outlets.

According to the links below, Governor Easley refused to issue a pardon based on evidence from an SBI investigation of the case. That investigation showed the following:

a) A recorded phone conversation between the two alleged victims, in which one attempts to convince the other to change her testimony. Note also from the below stories that one of the girls declined a lie detector test after changing her testimony, and that one of the girls now lives in a house owned by Sylvester Smith (the alleged abuser).

b) reports from two asst. district attorneys who did not find changes in the victims’ testimony credible (;

c) reports from the victims’ mothers who did not believe the victims’ change in testimony to be accurate;

d) the fact that Smith, his girlfriend at the time (mother of one of the victims), and one of the victims (who was 4 years old at the time) all tested positive for the same sexually transmitted disease. (

This in addition to the lie detector test that Smith apparently failed.

All of this would have added a great deal to the AP story, and would’ve shed more light on Gov. Easley’s motivation for refusing to pardon Smith in the first place.

4:46 PM  
Blogger Crankyboy said...

crankyboy responds to nathan denny:

I'm not the expert in this case but the prosecuter who should be dismissed the charges. While that might not mean he is innocent it clearly means they had no case. Imagine you were convicted and then the charges dismissed, shouldn't you be entitled to a clean slate with a pardon?

5:01 PM  

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