Case against Town Manager Stevie Cox labeled a mistrial - WECT, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Case against Town Manager Stevie Cox labeled a mistrial

Stevie Cox (Source: Columbus County) Stevie Cox (Source: Columbus County)

COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WECT) – Jury deliberations continued Friday in the case against Town Manger Stevie Cox who is accused of impersonating an officer. In the afternoon, the judge declared the case as a mistrial.

Town Manager Stevie Cox testified in court Thursday after being accused of impersonating an officer. The jurors began deliberations Thursday but were unable to come to a verdict.

They asked the judge to see the dash cam video again, but could not reach a decision by the 5:30 p.m. deadline. The judge recessed court until Friday morning.

Jurors asked the judge Friday morning to see photos and transcripts from State Trooper Ronnie Walker's testimony. The judge denied the transcript but allowed the jury to look at the pictures again – one of the badge and one of the car Cox was in.

A few hours later, the jurors passed a note to the judge saying, "Lord help us, we can't come to 100 percent agreement. It's 50/50. No one is willing to change."

In response, the judge told them their duty is to do whatever they can to reach a verdict and sent them back to deliberate.

Not long after, the jurors were still divided 7 to 5, which prompted the judge to order a mistrial. The jurors were discharged.

Jurors deliberated for five and a half hours in this trial.

Juror Pamela Mitchel says she believes Cox was innocent, and his testimony helped her to form her opinion.

Juror Donald Wise says he felt Cox was guilty, although he doesn't think Cox purposely showed the badge.

Michael Willis, Cox's attorney, believes if there is another trial, there will be another hung jury. He says that since the case is so public, he's concerned that it will be hard picking jurors in Columbus County who aren't familiar with the situation and who don't know the parties involved.

He believes if there's a new trial, they may have to move it to another county.

Regarding if they're going to dismiss case or request a new trial, District Attorney Jon David says they have not had a chance to discuss what's next, and are keeping all options open.

He says they hope to meet with Cox's attorney to see if they can come up with a mutual solution.

Cox took the stand Thursday, along with several other people who know him, including the two Chadbourn ABC board members who were in the car with Cox during the traffic stop and Whiteville Mayor Terry Mann.

Cox was pulled over by Highway Patrol in March 2011 while driving the police chief's vehicle on his way back from a trip to Raleigh. He was charged for impersonating an officer.

According to the highway patrol, when they asked Cox for his driver's license he presented them with the Chief's badge.

Cox turned himself in and he was charged with impersonating an officer and resisting and delaying police.

State Trooper Ronnie Walker took the stand Wednesday morning, but Cox's attorney, Michael Willis, had more questions and asked him to take the stand again Thursday.

Willis questioned Walker about why he didn't follow proper procedures during the traffic stop. While on the stand, Walker said Cox handed him a badge before giving him his license or registration.

According to Willis, a car passes by in the video when Cox allegedly said he's the chief. Willis said you can hear Walker say "sir?" in the video as if he didn't hear what Cox said.

Walker said Mayor Kenneth Waddell, who was sitting next to Cox in the car, had a shocked expression on his face as if he couldn't believe what Cox said.

Willis told the courtroom his client would be a fool to say he's the chief with Mayor Kenneth Waddell in the car sitting next to him.

Cox told the courtroom Thursday he told Walker that he was the town manager of Chadbourn. When Walker responded that he knows the police chief in Chadbourn, Cox said he started apologizing because he thought Walker misunderstood what he had said.

In an audio recording, you can hear Walker tell his first sergeant Cox "is claiming to be the manager of Chadbourn, but presenting me a police badge trying to get out of a speeding ticket."

Cox said he showed the badge to show they were on town business and claims he never said he was the chief or an officer.

Willis said that in the audio, Walker never mention Cox was impersonating an officer. He went on to say Walker didn't charge Cox with impersonating an officer until a week after the traffic stop happened.

When questioned why he allowed Cox to keep the badge, Walker said his supervisor advised him to do so. Police Chief Steven Shaw said he always keeps a badge in the car and that it's not uncommon for town managers to drive any vehicle that belongs to the town.

Chadbourn town attorney Butch Pope, who once represented Cox, said in an earlier report Cox used the police chief's SUV because the town vehicle they normally drive for in-town business was unreliable.

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