COLUMBUS COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - The former Columbus County Animal Control director has filed a complaint against District Attorney Jon David. Joey Prince was charged in May of 2018 with embezzlement and booked into the county jail. Prince denies any wrongdoing, but says he cannot clear his name more than two years after the charges were filed because the case has still not gone to trial.
“District Attorney Jon David’s office seemingly does not want this case to go to trial. While I was Animal Control Director, his office pressured me to commit perjury in a case brought by the Whiteville Police Department. I do not believe his office wishes this information made public and is therefore consistently delaying my trial,” Prince wrote in his complaint to the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office.
Prince noted that a hearing scheduled for September 17 and a previous hearing had both been delayed by David’s office. Prince claims David pursued criminal action against him as payback for publicly speaking out against him.
“I had been critical of his office’s handling of animal abuse cases in the local press, and there was what I interpreted as retaliation. Despite promises to do so, they refused to prosecute a case where I was threatened to be killed while on duty. I had witnesses, but that didn’t seem to matter,” Prince said.
David staunchly denied those claims.
“I was unaware of the defendant’s complaint until notified by the media earlier today. The allegations are blatantly false, and I am disappointed that the story aired without fact checking the court records. My office has been diligently working with the defendant’s attorney for a resolution in this matter. Apparently, the defendant’s attorney was unaware of his complaint or that his client was speaking with the media,” David said in a prepared statement Thursday.
“I would encourage you to speak with the defense attorney for further comment. I categorically deny that my office would ever initiate a prosecution to punish someone for the exercise of their first amendment rights. Incidentally, I was unaware of any of Mr. Prince’s prior statements in the press until I read them in his complaint,” David added.
Prince said the county had scrubbed emails that document his concerns about the District Attorney.
“A letter from Columbus County Attorney Amanda Prince sent September 2019 and read at court by my attorney admits that the county has none of my emails sent on the county’s official email. Mr. David’s office was ordered by the judge on that date (September 2019) to provide a reason that my emails had been destroyed and was given a month to do so. As of the writing of this letter no such answer has been provided to me or my attorney,” Prince wrote in his complaint.
The North Carolina Attorney General’s Office confirmed receipt of the complaint but told WECT they have no jurisdiction over the matter.
“District Attorneys are elected officials and do not report to the Attorney General’s Office,” AG Spokeswoman Laura Brewer said. “Our office does not have the authority to investigate these claims. We also do not have the authority to calendar court trials; any questions about that should be directed toward the courts.”
WECT is told the same complaint was also sent to the Administrative Office of the Courts, and the North Carolina State Bar. The State Bar says they cannot confirm the receipt of a complaint until it goes before the Disciplinary Hearing Commission and action is taken. The complaint sent to the Administrative Offices of the Court was sent through the US Mail and likely has not arrived yet.
According to the Columbus County Sheriff’s Office, an investigation into Prince began after he left his position with Animal Control on Aug. 28, 2017. The sheriff’s office was notified that a laptop containing financial information, along with other documents, was missing from the county’s Animal Control office in Whiteville.
Investigators said that Prince created numerous PayPal and GoFundMe accounts to make it easier for nonprofit organizations to make donations to Animal Control.
Detectives subpoenaed bank records and discovered that Prince allegedly transferred nearly $1,600 from the Animal Control’s PayPal account to his own personal PayPal account for personal use.
We reached out to Columbus County for an explanation regarding the missing emails. The county attorney said that Columbus County did not begin automatically preserving employees' emails until 2018, after Prince had left his job with Animal Control.