A North Carolina sheriff was trying to keep a racist recording of himself from becoming public so he encouraged a man to kill the deputy threatening to make the recording public.
But the sheriff's conversation with the potential killer was also recorded leading to a felony indictment against him Monday.
Granville County Sheriff Brindell Wilkins was charged with two counts of felony obstruction of justice. He was released on a $20.000 bond and is still serving as sheriff, a position he has held since 2009.
The FBI has been aware of the recording since August 2014 – the same month and year the recording was made – but chose not to pursue charges. The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation was also aware of the recording since January 2017 but that resulted in no apparent investigation.
It was only after Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman became aware of the recording in October 2018 that the two law enforcement agencies began investigating, which is what led to the indictment, according to the Washington Post:
Wilkins’s indictment in Granville County comes after a 10-month investigation by the FBI and N.C. State Bureau of Investigation, although authorities were aware of the phone call since 2014, according to a news release from Lorrin Freeman.
The Wake County prosecutor took over the investigation in 2018 after Granville County District Attorney Mike Waters disclosed a conflict of interest in the case, according to the news release. Waters may also be a witness in the case, because he represented Joshua Freeman in his private practice in 2014. At that time, Waters obtained a copy of the recording of Wilkins allegedly encouraging Freeman’s killing. Waters contacted the FBI and handed over the recording in August 2014, he wrote in a letter to the Wake County district attorney.
In January 2017, Waters said he met with leaders of the State Bureau of Investigation and gave them the recording as well. After nothing appeared to be happening, he provided the recording to a different agent in October 2018 and also wrote to Lorrin Freeman, asking her to take over and advise the state agency on whether to open an investigation due to his conflict. Freeman agreed.
“I have reviewed this recording,” Lorrin Freeman wrote to SBI agents, requesting help. “It contains a conversation between two individuals, one of whom appears to be the Granville County Sheriff, about a former deputy sheriff and culminates in a discussion about committing a homicide.”
The deputy who was threatening to release the original recording, Joshua Freeman (no apparent relation to Lorrin Freeman), is no longer with the department. That recording has not been made public so it's unclear as to what exactly did he say on that recording.
According to the News and Observer.
During a 2014 conversation, court records said, Wilkins indicated he thought Freeman would soon unveil an audio recording of him using “racially insensitive language” to authorities in Raleigh.
The sheriff advised the person to “take care of it” and “the only way you gonna stop him is kill him,” court records said, adding instructions on how to commit the murder without being identified.
“You ain’t got the weapon, you ain’t got nothing to go on,” Wilkins said, according to court records. “The only way we find out these murder things is people talk. You can’t tell nobody, not a thing.”
In that conversation, Wilkins heard specific threats to kill his former deputy at a particular time and place but did not warn the officer or take any action, court records said.
Court documents said Wilkins did so “in secrecy and malice, with deceit and intent to defraud.”
The person who was threatening to kill the deputy has not been identified but is described as a "well-known" person in the indictment.