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After NC Activist is Denied Attorney, Calls for Wake County Magistrate Reforms

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Thursday, July 15, 2021   

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Protestors are raising concerns about how they're being treated by Wake County magistrates after a member of the North Carolina People's Budget Coalition was arrested for attempting to make a public comment on the state budget at a House Appropriations Committee meeting last month.

Kathy Greggs, president and co-founder of the Fayetteville Police Accountability Community Task Force and a member of the Coalition, was arrested June 29 on second-degree trespassing charges, and said she was detained for three hours and denied access to her attorney, who had arrived to help.

"I got arrested while I was outside the door, and they cut off the livestream in the committee, so people couldn't see what was really going on," Greggs recounted. "After I got arrested, they took me down to the Wake County jail, but there was still people with us that stood up and made comments and chanted on their way out the door."

Dawn Blagrove, executive director of Emancipate North Carolina and Greggs' attorney, said interfering with a defendant's right to their attorney at the setting of bond is a violation of North Carolina law and sent a letter to Wake County Chief Magistrate Christopher Graves and Chief District Judge Debra Sasser, calling for reforms and the issuance of a public statement affirming the right of defendants to be represented at bond setting. Graves and Sasser did not respond to an email request for comment for this story.

Blagrove explained people who have been detained and charged with a crime during a bond hearing have a constitutional right to an attorney.

"Everyone involved kept saying to me that I could speak to her after she was finished being processed," Blagrove recalled. "And I kept saying to them, the process is the part that I need to be present for because she's entitled to representation. She has counsel available."

She added the treatment of Greggs during her arrest and detention is not an isolated event in Wake County.

"Since Emancipate NC published its story about the problems that we've had with magistrates, we've had several other attorneys who work with nonprofits and folks who are involved in protest defense, who have told us they've had similar experiences at the Wake County Magistrates' Office," Blagrove remarked.

Disclosure: Emancipate NC contributes to our fund for reporting on Civic Engagement, Criminal Justice, Human Rights/Racial Justice, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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