DA, Others Testify

Published 8:50 am Thursday, May 12, 2016

By Lynn Hall

Enterprise Record

In addition to the three former police officers and Chief Robert Cook, the witnesses called to the stand by the plaintiffs attorneys during the first week of the trial included Davie County Sheriff’s Captain Chris Shuskey, Mocksville Police Det. Nelson Turrentine, District Attorney Gary Frank, Jeff Allen with hunter education program, Davie Sheriff’s officer Thomas Poindexter, Kay Donathan, Krenda Hunter and Renee Medlin.

Shuskey testified that he had received a phone call from local SBI agent D.J. Smith asking him to run a telephone number through his database. Shuskey was asked to identify the owner of the phone, but not to investigate. He told the court he was informed of a call to the governor’s office and allegations of against Mocksville Police Chief Robert Cook.

Shuskey also testified that in his search he came across the name of a Hispanic female who did not live in Davie County.  He testifies he them called Lt. Nelson Turrentine with the MPD and asked if he would run the number. He mentioned the female associated with the phone and Turrentine said he thought he knew the number and that it was associated with a drug case involving Ken Hunter’s nephews.

Turrentine testified that he did receive a call from Shuskey the week before Christmas, 2011. He could not recall if SBI Agent Smith’s name had been mentioned. He said it was common for he and Shuskey to talk, as they both handled narcotics and often consulted with each other. He said during the conversation he did not recall any talk of corruption or a call to the governor’s office.

Turrentine, who was a detective working under Major Ken Hunter at the time, stated that he called the Tracfone number in order to store it in his phone, but did not complete the call. He then passed the number along to the department’s administrative secretary Donna Lawrence and another detective, Mike Preston, so they might run it through the MPD database.

He was asked if he spoke to Chief Robert Cook or Major Daniel Matthews and he replied that he did not remember a conversation. He was asked if he was told this was a narcotics case and he replied that he did not recall.

There had been a motorcycle rally in Mocksville at which time Hunter and Medlin had testified they had seen Chief Cook drinking a beer and later what was alleged to be peach brandy. Turrentine was also present at that time and some of the riders were doing burn-outs in a hotel parking lot. He said there were only 10 to 25 people in the parking lot and some were doing burn-outs. He did not think it was a safety issue. When asked why he didn’t not stop it, he said “Sometimes you let people do small things to avoid the conflict.”

Turrentine stated Chief Cook was in the parking lot with Donna Lawrence, but he did not see Cook drinking. He also said he never saw Hunter arrive and recruit the chief to help stop the burn-outs.

Plaintiff’s attoney Robert Elliot asked Turrentine if he remembered going to Moxie’s that same evening and being chastised by Hunter for not taking action.

“Didn’t he say if “you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem?” Elliot asked. Turrentine replied, “Yes.” He then stated that he was upset with Hunter and admitted he had gone to find Chief Cook.

“Did you tell the chief you did not want to work for Hunter?”

Turrentine said he did.

Elliot: “Did you see liquor in the breakroom refrigerator and ask who it belonged to?”

Turrentine: “Yes, but I didn’t ask.”

Elliot: “Was that because you knew it belonged to the chief?”

Turrentine: “No.”

Under cross examination by defense attorney Patrick Flanagan, Turrentine was asked if he had conversations with Cook or Matthews about why the officers were fired and he said he had not.

He was asked about any concerns when Cook made Matthews and Hunter assistant chiefs and Turrentine said he thought it was a bad idea. He said Hunter was aggressive and mean to people and that he always wanted to be in charge.

Turrentine also said he had been part of the drug raid at the convenience store and he had learned of the conversation between Ken Hunter and Mike Goyani, the individual who was found to have illegal substances. “I learned there was going to be raid and that Goyani had been in the department headquarters and met with Hunter and that he walked out with the illegal drugs.”

Flanagan:  “Have you ever heard talk around town about the (the chief’s) excessive drinking?”

Turrentine: “No.”

Flanagan: “You’ve never heard anyone accuse Cook of being a racist?”

Turrentine:  “No.”

Flanagan: “Any agency accuse Cook of embezzlement?”

Turrentine: “No.”

District Attorney Garry Frank testified that he received a call from Chief Cook informing him of the terminations of the three officers. “It was a courtesy call,” Frank said. “It said something like ‘you can’t have people who undercut you and are causing problems.”

The district attorney was asked if he had ever received any previous calls about misconduct.

“Yes, in 2011 I got a call from the SBI in Raleigh about an anonymous call to the governor’s office about Chief Cook getting a DWI and that he was allowed to drive home.”

Frank said he called Davie County Sheriff Andy Stokes who said he would check and call back. “He did and said he had no evidence that this happened.”

Frank said he also received an anonymous call in 2011 from someone who said the DA needed to call Ken Hunter about things that were going on in the police department.

“I did call and he said he didn’t know why I was told to call him and that he had nothing to report,” Frank testified.

In cross examination by Flanagan, Frank was taken through a list of high profile individuals in law enforcement and political office that he had prosecuted.

“This was well known,” Flanagan asked and Frank agreed it was.

Jeff Allen was involved in setting up the hunter education programs at Davie High School and South Davie and North Davie middle schools. The teams used the Davie County Law Enforcement Association’s firing range for practice.

Allen was called in regards to allegations that he had concerns about the handling of money collected during a fundraiser to assist one of the middle schools in traveling to a national competition. If extra money above and beyond that needed for the trip was raised, the remaining money could be used for improvements to the range.

Allen testified that Cook was president of the DCLEA at the time and Assistant Chief Daniel Matthews was the treasurer. Allegations had been made by the plaintiffs that there were reports of a member of the DCLEA standing up during a meeting and asking questions about the disbursement of the funds and the implications of mismanagement. There was testimony that he did not get an answer and was chastised by the Davie County Sheriff, Andy Stokes, for bringing up the matter.

Allen told the court that the teams are under the N.C. Athletic Association Rules and monies raised are to be given to the school for distribution to students.  Instead, Allen alleges that Matthews deposited the funds in the DCLEA account and wrote checks to the students. This is not allowed, as student athletes are not to accept funds from organizations, and Allen told Matthews this was a violation that could cost them the trip.

Matthews refused to allow anyone to see the DCLEA accounts and a motion was supposedly made at a DCLEA meeting that Allen be banned from the range.

Allen testified that he received a letter from Chief Cook as president of the DCLEA telling him he had been banned and stating that the unanimous vote on the matter had been made at a Nov. 4 meeting in 2011. Allen is still banned from the range.

Thomas Poindexter is now the president of the DCLEA and was subpoenaed by the plaintiffs to appear and bring all of the DCLEA minutes from 2011 to court. He compiled, but informed the court that he had been unable to find any minutes for a Nov. 4, 2011 meeting.

Under oath, Poindexter also admitted he was the person who stood at one of the DCLAE meetings to question the use of the funds to pave the firing range.

In cross examination, defense attorney Phil Van Hoy asked if his question to the DCLAE had been about the efficiency of the use of the money and Poindexter replied that it was.

In redirect questioning by the plaintiff’s attorney, the officer was asked: “But you were asking for an accounting of the money weren’t you?”

Poindexter: “Yes.”

Elliot:  “Did you get it?”

Poindexter: “No”

The wives and daughter of the three plaintiffs were called to the stand last Friday afternoon and gave emotional testimony about the impact of the terminations on their husbands/father and their lives.

Kay Donathan said her husband had a great sense of humor, was an animal lover and what she would call a hard-core police officer. “It was what he had always wanted to do.”

She said he was hurt because he does not believe he’s done anything wrong and yet in the face of corruption, he was the one to suffer.

Kendra Hunter described her father as a wonderful dad and a disciplinarian. He had been a dedicated and focused officer and in the aftermath, he had been depressed and distraught, financially unstable and embarrassed.

Renee Medlin said her husband also had always hoped to go into law enforcement. He said he had had to drop out of Basic Law Enforcement Training at one point due to her medical situation, but that he’d later gone back and been certified.

“He likes helping people and this is a job he’s always respected.” She said he had been excited to be promoted to detective, but over time she noticed some changes in his behavior. She said he talked to her about what he thought was happening in the department and the effect on morale.  She said she knew he had written a letter about his concerns to the Town Manager Christine Bralley.  She said when he was demoted back to patrol by Chief Cook after turning in the letter, he was upset.