Case closed, you might think.
But, according to prosecutors, not only did the sheriff decline to haul the plotter in, he also encouraged him to carry out the killing and gave him advice on how to foil a murder investigation.
“You ain’t got the weapon, you ain’t got nothing to go on,” Sheriff Brindell Wilkins said during a recorded telephone call, according to an indictment released Monday in which he was charged with two felony counts of obstruction of justice. “The only way we find out these murder things is people talk. You can’t tell nobody nothin’, not a thing.”
According to court records, the deputy, Joshua Freeman, was in possession of an audio recording in which the sheriff made “racially offensive” remarks in 2014, which he planned to release to the authorities in nearby Raleigh. The indictment did not specify exactly what was said.
The threat of its release was motive enough for Wilkins to engage the unnamed man to carry out the murder that same year, prosecutors concluded after a 10-month investigation by the FBI and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.
The sheriff was accused of saying of Freeman, who according to his LinkedIn profile worked as a K-9 narcotics interdiction officer for the county from 2011 to 2014, that “the only way you gonna stop him is kill him.” Ultimately, there was no attempt to take Freeman’s life.
The obstruction of justice charges against Wilkins accuse him of withholding “knowledge of a credible threat made by an individual” and not performing his duties as sheriff to protect the would-be victim and for counseling the unnamed person on how to commit the murder without being identified.
Wilkins, 59, has served as sheriff for the 59,000 residents of Granville County in northern North Carolina since 2009, and was most recently reelected in 2018.
Attempts to reach him for comment Tuesday were not successful.
The sheriff was released on a $20,000 bond Monday, forcing the Board of County Commissioners to call an emergency meeting Tuesday morning. They concluded that their hands were tied and Wilkins could continue to serve until he resigns or is convicted.
“The Board of Commissioners has no supervisory authority over the sheriff,” said James C. Wrenn Jr., a lawyer for the board.
But he did make known the commissioners displeasure in having a sheriff who himself is accused of serious crimes. “Let me be clear in saying that the commissioners and I are united on the fact that Granville County must have a chief law enforcement officer who upholds the law without animus or bias, who does not use his office for personal gain, and who does not obstruct justice,” he said.
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