DA Says Libel Case Against N. Carolina Attorney General Over

Written by GARY D. ROBERTSON


A North Carolina prosecutor said Thursday that campaign-related charges won’t be pursued further against Attorney General Josh Stein or his aides, one day after an appeals court ruled the political libel law her office was seeking to enforce is most likely unconstitutional.

Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said that the ongoing investigation and prosecution of potential misdemeanor violations related to a 2020 ad from Stein’s campaign has been closed.

A senior assistant prosecutor in Freeman’s office had been investigating allegations whether the commercial criticizing Stein’s Republican challenger at the time broke a 1931 law that makes certain political speech unlawful. When it appeared last summer that Freeman’s office could soon seek indictments, Stein’s campaign and others sued in federal court to stop the effort and asked that the law be declared unconstitutional.

In August, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, blocked enforcement of the law while an appeal was heard. On Wednesday, the same appeal panel vacated a trial judge’s ruling that had refused to order Freeman to stop using the law to prosecute anyone over the disputed commercial.

A statement released by Freeman also said the ruling prevents her office from moving forward given that there is two-year statute of limitations for such a misdemeanor.

“Understanding that the case was one of intense public interest, it has been the assigned prosecutor’s intent to exercise due diligence and to evaluate the evidence and apply the law without partiality from the beginning of this matter,” Freeman said. “As prosecutors, we respect the role of the court in determining the constitutionality of a duly enacted state law.”

The decision by Freeman — the local prosecutor for North Carolina’s largest county — ultimately could make the Stein lawsuit moot. And Stein, who announced

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1st black female NC superior court judge Shirley Fulton dies

Shirley Fulton, a trailblazing judge in Charlotte and across North Carolina, has died.

Shirley Fulton, a trailblazing judge in Charlotte and across North Carolina, has died.

Staff Photographer

Longtime Mecklenburg County Judge Shirley Fulton, the first Black woman to win a Superior Court seat in North Carolina, died Wednesday morning.

The cause of death: complications from gall bladder cancer.

Fulton, whose influence stretched from the courthouse to a decades-long list of significant community endeavors, was 71.

At different points during her legal career, the Kingstree, S.C., native worked as an assistant Mecklenburg County district attorney, a District Court judge, a Superior Court judge and a law professor.

For 14 years she served as Senior Resident Superior Court judge, the most powerful judicial seat in the Mecklenburg courthouse. Once again Fulton made history by being the first Black woman in North Carolina to hold the job.

Shirley Fulton.jpg
Michael Shane Neal’s 2004 portrait of former Judge Shirley Fulton hangs in the Mecklenburg County Courthouse. Fulton, the first Black woman in North Carolina ever elected to a Superior Court seat, has died. She was 71. Michael Shane Neal

After leaving the bench in 2002, Fulton went into private practice. But she continued to throw herself into highly public community initiatives — from reforms in the courts to public housing and local schools.

She served as president of Queen City Congress, a coalition of inner city neighborhoods, and was former board chair of the Charlotte Housing Authority.

In 2015, she re-donned her judicial robes to preside over a mock grand jury hearing in Raleigh to consider “indicting” Republican legislators who had voted to block the expansion of Medicaid, the major form of federal health assistance for low-income families.

“She was an absolute gem for this community and this court system,” said Carla Archie, the county’s current senior resident judge, and the first Black woman

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Former North Carolina legislator Tom Murry running for attorney general

A local prosecutor, pharmacist and former state legislator announced on Friday he will run for North Carolina attorney general next year.

Republican Tom Murry of Wake County said he’ll seek to succeed Democratic AG Josh Stein, who announced last month he’s running for governor.

Murry served in the state House in the 2010s following a stint on the Morrisville town council. He later worked for the Administrative Office of the Courts.

Murry is currently a licensed pharmacist and North Carolina Army National Guard member, and recently has been an assistant district attorney for a five-county region north of Raleigh.

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Ex-North Carolina legislator Tom Murry announced on Friday he will be running for <a href=attorney general.”/

Ex-North Carolina legislator Tom Murry announced on Friday he will be running for attorney general.

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“My pledge to the people of North Carolina is simple, I will stand beside local law enforcement, district attorneys and victim’s advocates to defend not defund the rule of law for all North Carolinians,” Murry said in a news release while criticizing Stein’s AG tenure..

Murry’s release pointed to a list of endorsements that included current and former legislators and some ex-judges, as well as to his efforts while in the legislature pushing for voter photo identification and regulatory reforms.

Murry also said he would create a “rapid response statewide drug task force” if elected to go after criminals who bring fentanyl to the state.

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