Court rules state wrongfully seized former FBI agent’s guns

Updated: Jun. 19, 2018 at 1:51 PM EDT
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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - A state appeals court has reversed a ruling that required a former FBI agent accused of sexually assaulting a woman not posses or purchase any firearms.

In May 2017, the woman filed a complaint for a no-contact order against Donald Wofford, who identified himself in court testimony as a former FBI agent, retired police officer, and a veteran.

The woman alleged Wofford "grabbed her breasts without her consent, came to her house 'making false accusations' and refused to leave, and had his erectile dysfunction medication delivered to her home," according to a court document.

WECT does not typically identify alleged victims of sexual assault.

The trial court granted the woman's request for a temporary no-contact order and set a hearing on her request for a permanent no-contact order.

At that hearing, Wofford testified he owned a firearm, and was "authorized to be armed in fifty states twenty-four seven," the document states.

The court concluded Wofford had "committed acts of unlawful conduct against the (woman)," and entered a no-contact order for stalking or nonconsensual conduct. A handwritten note in that document ordered:

Defendant shall surrender to the (New Hanover County Sheriff's Office) any and all firearms that he owns, to be held by the NH Sheriff for the duration of this order. Defendant's concealed carry permit is revoked for the period of this order. Defendant is prevented from purchasing possessing any firearm for the term of this order.

Wofford appealed, arguing the trial court exceeded its authority in the order. In its ruling, released Tuesday, the appeals court agreed based on the limitations of the statue used to impose the no-contact order.

"We understand that the motivation of the trial court was simply to protect plaintiff, but the district court does not have the authority under Chapter 50C sua sponte to order defendant to surrender his concealed carry permit, or to order him not to purchase or possess any firearms during the period of the no-contact order," Judge Donna Stroud wrote in the appeals court's ruling. "We reverse the provisions of the order addressing firearms. We remand to the trial court to determine if any additional order is needed to direct the New Hanover Sheriff's Office to return defendant's firearms, and if so, to enter such an order."

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