Granville County DA says he 1st took recording of sheriff’s threats toward deputy to FBI in 2014, doc say

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OXFORD, N.C. (WNCN) – Granville County Sheriff Brindell Wilkins was indicted Monday on two counts of felony obstruction of justice, according to a news release from Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman.

Wilkins is accused of obstructing “public and legal justice by withholding knowledge of a credible threat made by an individual known to the Sheriff to imminently kill Joshua Freeman,” according to court documents released.

Freeman is a former deputy, according to correspondence between Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman and Granville County District Attorney Mike Waters. Documents allege that Wilkins “failed to properly execute his duties because of his personal animosity towards Joshua Freeman.”

The document further alleged that Freeman had expressed to Wilkins the intention to disclose to authorities a purported audio recording of him using “racially offensive language.”

Documents also said Wilkins encouraged this individual “take care of it,” and “if you need to take care of somethin’, just take care of something,” and “the only way you gonna stop him is kill him.”

Wilkins is accused of further counseling the individual on how to murder “in a manner as to avoid identification.” The document quoted Wilkins as saying “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’.”

“Seemed to be a good sheriff, that’s all I can tell you,” Tom Daniel, a lifelong Granville County resident said.

“Yes, he’s done his job in the past,” Kenneth Moss, a Granville County resident said.

Lorrin Freeman adopted the case at the request of Waters “following a determination by Waters that he had a conflict in the matter,” the release said.

The charges are the result of a 10-month investigation by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. The FBI assisted.

In a letter on Nov. 14, 2018, Waters wrote to District Attorney Freeman that he originally took the recording to the FBI in August 2014. He wrote he doesn’t know what happened as a result of that.

Then, in January of 2017, he met with State Bureau of Investigation Director Bob Schurmeier and Special Agent in Charge Mike Denning. He says an assistant director also attended and took possession of the recording. It’s not clear what happened, if anything, after that.

Then, in October of 2018, he gave the SBI another copy of the recording after finding out another investigation was underway in Granville County.

District Attorney Freeman said after state investigators listened to the recording that time, they contacted her right away.

“Once they listened to the recording is when they contacted me and requested that I open the criminal investigation,” she said. “It is my understanding that it simply had not been reviewed or listened to.”

CBS 17 has reached out to both the FBI and SBI for comment.

“I think, first and foremost, it’s important for them to understand, as is well-documented, that District Attorney Waters from the moment he found out about this in 2014 has consistently brought it to the attention of investigative authorities,” Freeman said. “Should this have taken this long to get to this point? Absolutely not.”

Wilkins was voluntarily served with the indictments Monday afternoon. He was released on a $20,000 bond, the release said. His first court date is scheduled for Oct. 9 at 9:30 a.m. in Granville County.

Granville County attorney Jim Wrenn said at a press conference Tuesday that “the focus must remain on the citizens” of the county. He added that he’s only reviewed the information that’s been made available to the public. He wants to review the evidence, including the audio recording, before making a determination about removing Wilkins from his position.

Wrenn added that sheriff is an independently elected officer. The county commissioners can’t force him to resign. The only action that could be pursued, he said, is seeking to have him removed by petitioning the court.

When asked if the Sheriff should step down, Daniel said, “I don’t know. You got to have proof.”

 “Only if he’s found guilty,” was Moss’ response. 

There is also a second investigation concerning the sheriff’s office’s “accounting practices and controlled substance interdiction efforts.” That investigation is pending, Freeman said, and could take months to finish.

The Granville County Board of Commissioners held an emergency meeting Tuesday at 7:30 a.m.

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