District Attorney Mike Hardin announced in a press release Monday that his office closed multiple cases that have been backlogged. Hardin took office beginning of the year in the newly created Moore and Hoke County district. Hardin’s office has made a concerted effort in 2021 to close cases that have been backlogged.
According to the Administrative Office of the Courts records, in the last 11 months, his office had closed 1,854 felony cases that were pending in superior court. In comparison to the Administrative Office of the Courts records for the year 2018 which showed only 601 cases closed in Moore County Superior Court. This was a 208% increase in disposition.
The records for 2019 showed 719 cases closed in the superior court of Moore County. This was a 157% increase in disposition. Additionally, the records for 2020 yielded 657 cases closed in Moore County Superior Court. This was a 182% increase in disposition.
Despite Covid, his office tried 16 jury trials in the two-county district. This year, his office concentrated on resolving serious felony cases that had been held in custody in local confinement for lengthy periods of time. The following cases represent a sample of cases held in custody in Moore County that were closed by Hardin’s Office in 2021:
Jesse Martin and Debra Dorsett were charged on August 22, 2014, with murder and had both been held in custody for nearly 7 years. Jesse Martin received 13 years 8 months to 17 years 5 months. Debra Dorsett received 13 years 1 month to 16 years 9 months active. The charged co-defendant Dannie Smith was not in custody however his cases had been pending nearly 7 years. The file contained information showing that he was innocent of the charges, and therefore his charges were dismissed.
Montrice McManus was charged on Oct. 28, 2016, with murder and had been held in custody nearly five years awaiting trial. He received an active sentence of 16- 20.25 years;
Jose Angel Castillo was charged April 1, 2017, with statutory sex offense, statutory rape, indecent liberties and been in custody nearly four years awaiting trial. He was sentenced to 8 years 8 months to 15 years and 5 months;
Willie Williams was charged with murder on June 17, 2018, and had been in custody nearly three years awaiting trial. Judge James Webb had issued a speedy trial order in this case in 2019. When set for trial, he plead guilty and received a sentence of life without parole;
Freeman Scott Ireland was charged on Sept. 28, 2018, with second-degree rape and had been in custody nearly three years. He received 2 years and 8 months to 3 years and 8 months;
Mathew West was charged on August 2, 2019, with statutory sex offense, indecent liberties, statutory rape and dissemination of obscene material and had been in custody for nearly three years awaiting trial. He received 10 to 17 years active;
Dallas Walter was charged with murder on June 10, 2019, and had been in custody nearly two years awaiting trial. Walters received an active prison sentence of 13.83 years minimum to 17.66 years maximum;
Jose Silva Jr was charged on Feb. 14, 2019, with first-degree sexual exploitation, indecent liberties, second-degree sexual exploitation, and statutory rape of a child by an adult. He had been in custody nearly two years awaiting trial. Silva received an active prison sentence of 20 years minimum to 39 years and 11 months maximum;
Jerry Rickett was charged with first-degree statutory sex offense on March 1, 2019, and had been in custody over two years. He received an active sentence of 16-24 years and 3 months; and
Jacob Lee was charged on Feb. 23, 2020 with first-degree burglary and felonious assault and had been in custody over a year awaiting trial. He plead guilty without a plea offer and was sentenced after argument to 12 years 5 months to 18 years 1 month active.
Additionally, Hardin’s office attempted to work on the backlog of old cases that had been sitting in district court. In March of 2021, Hardin’s office identified 74 driving while impaired cases pending in Moore County District Court with dates of offense from 2019 or earlier.
In an effort to dispose of these old driving while impaired cases, Hardin requested a special four-day session of Moore County District Court. As a result, 46 driving while impaired cases were scheduled for trial during this past week starting Tuesday, May 18, 2021, and ending Friday, May 21, 2021. Thirty-five of these cases were closed this week, of which 31 resulted in guilty verdicts. Three cases resulted in not guilty verdicts. One of these cases was disposed of by the court granting a defendant’s motion to suppress. Seven cases were continued on defendant’s motions to continue, and four defendants did not appear for court resulting in orders for their arrest being issued. Overall, this week ended in an 88.5% conviction rate with nearly half of the backlogged cases being closed.
Hardin found that many victims in serious felony cases in Moore County had never met with a lawyer prior to the new district. Although a staff member may have spoken with them in person or by phone, they had never actually met with the attorney in their case. Hardin’s office has made an effort to get each of these victims into the office and meet with the attorney assigned to their case. As a result, his staff has received many accolades, letters, and comments from victims and law enforcement.
Hardin dedicated a new children’s room in the Moore County office to accommodate child victims. This space also allows adult victims with children to have a place for children to play while they are meeting with the assistant district attorney or staff.
During the course of this year, the Moore and Hoke County District Attorney’s Office has built a stronger relationship with law enforcement. District Attorney Hardin implemented mandatory stamping of serious felony files, allowing law enforcement to sit down and discuss these cases shortly after the cases are charged. Hardin also reorganized and assigned the staff and attorneys to handle certain types of cases so that law enforcement and victims would work with one staff member and one attorney depending on the type of case. Finally, he reorganized the filing system and created a centralized filing system for pending cases and closed cases. This makes cases easier to find within the office.
Feature photo: A multi-agency Region 6 Traffic Task Force Checkpoint at the intersection of U.S. 15-501 and Hwy 211 in Aberdeen in March 2021 netted 55 charges including one DWI~Sandhills Sentinel.