COLUMBUS COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - The former director of Columbus County Animal Control just had a job offer rescinded due to pending felony charges stemming from an arrest more than two years ago. Joey Prince received a letter from a local community college on Friday informing him that he could not report for work as an instructor due to the obtaining property by false pretense and embezzlement charges that have yet to be resolved in court.
Joey Prince is awaiting trial. He was arrested in 2017, accused of stealing about $1,600 from Columbus County. Prince insists no money was stolen. He said he had permission to use the money in question to purchase medication for animals at the shelter that would not normally be covered under the county budget. Prince added that the money was raised through a GoFundMe drive, and said he has receipts and bank statements to prove the money was used for legitimate purposes.
Prince said the long wait to attempt to clear his name at trial has been financially devastating for his family. He said he has been unable to get a steady job because of the pending felonies, and just wants his day in court so he can prove his innocence. Prince has a daughter in college, and recently had to delay a medical procedure for himself because of the cost.
Prince said he turned down a plea offer the District Attorney’s office presented to him last week, after we ran a story about his situation. He said they offered to drop all charges if he would pay $1,600 in restitution for the money authorities claim he stole. Prince insists he didn’t steal anything, so he is refusing to pay. He said he offered to show his receipts proving how the money was spent, but Columbus County Sheriff’s Office detectives declined to review them.
District Attorney Jon David confirmed Prince was offered a plea deal but was unable to comment on the details.
“The Columbus County Sheriff’s Office has arrested the defendant for a felony charge and a grand jury has issued an indictment. Last week, members of my office met with the Columbus County Sheriff’s Office to review the status of the case and we are proceeding forward in light of the available information. If the defendant has documents in his possession which he claims are exculpatory in nature, I would suggest giving them to his defense attorney so that we can examine them,” David said.
“Regarding the trial, our ability to go to trial is hindered by the shut-downs related to COVID-19," David continued. "Jury trials have been completely suspended in all 100 counties by order of the Chief Justice for the past six months. If the defendant chooses, he can request a bench trial and we would agree to this process under the circumstances.”
“This is a challenging time in the history of our court system. I share the frustration of many that we are currently unable to convene jury trials and otherwise move as efficiently as we have in the past. My office will continue to prioritize the prosecution of violent criminals and repeat offenders. Moreover, we will continue to innovate and work closely with our partners in law enforcement, the clerks office, and the judiciary to find a pathway forward for the resolution of all cases,” David said.
An inquiry to the Columbus County Sheriff’s Office about Prince’s contention that detectives declined to review his receipts has not been returned. This story will be updated with their response when it is received.