Judge denies double jeopardy motion in Strickland arson case - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Judge denies double jeopardy motion in Strickland arson case

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Inside the courtroom at the hearing June 29. Inside the courtroom at the hearing June 29.
Allen Strickland is accused of arson. Allen Strickland is accused of arson.
Investigators believe Strickland set fire to his own home. Investigators believe Strickland set fire to his own home.

COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WECT) – A judge has denied a motion to dismiss an arson case against a man from Tabor City.

The lawyer for Allen Strickland argued Wednesday in a Columbus County courtroom that his client should not face trial again on arson charges, because it would be a case of double jeopardy.

Strickland is now due back in court July 11th to face arson charges after that mistrial earlier this year.  He was charged in 2009 with fraudulently setting fire to a dwelling house and attempting to obtain property by false pretense.   He is accused of setting fire to the home that former State Senator R.C. Soles bought him.

Strickland went to trial in April, but the judge declared a mistrial because the defense accused the Tabor City Police Department of withholding a taped interview where Strickland names who he thinks burned down his house.

"If a mistrial is declared and defendant objects then there can't be a mistrial unless that mistrial goes through manifested necessaries," said Craig Wright, Strickland's attorney.

In court Wednesday, Strickland's attorney, Craig Wright, argued that if there is a mistrial declared and an objection from the defense for that mistrial, then the accused can not be tried again.  Wright says it was not Strickland's fault for the mistrial earlier this year.  He says it was the lack of responsibility on behalf of the Tabor City Police Department. 

"The Tabor City Police department in my opinion blew this all up with their misconduct -- either intentionally or otherwise," said Wright.

Wright pointed out despite the mistrial, the tape in question still remains in the custody of the Tabor City Police Department weeks later.  The judge issued a court order, requiring the TCPD to turn the tape over to the SBI.

Also in court, it was revealed the hour long tape includes Strickland talking about his relationship with Senator Soles.  However, the District Attorney's Office said there was nothing else on that tape needed for evidence.

"The allegations we would use for impeachment would reflect poorly on Soles and possible create an inference of illegal conduct," explained Lynn Wilkie, Columbus County assistant district attorney.

Judge Trawick asked both the defense and prosecution if they had an issue with him presiding over this case, considering he took the bench when Senator Soles was the elected representative for this area.  Both sides said they did not object.

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