By WECT Staff | July 2, 2020 at 2:48 PM EDT – Updated July 2 at 4:45 PM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – In a letter to Wilmington Police Chief Donny Williams on Thursday, New Hanover County District Attorney Ben David said his office would not be filing criminal charges against three former officers who were fired after they were recorded making racist and violent remarks about black people.
David said he has, however, called for a federal investigation into the officers’ hate-filled speech because “federal law may provide a remedy that is not available under state law.”
The three former officers — James Gilmore, Jesse Moore II, and Kevin Piner — were fired last week after an internal affairs investigation into the accidental recording of their conversation.
While David said their language was “vile and repugnant and has no place in our society,” he said his office has no standing to charge the former officers.
“Words alone – spoken in private, not intended by the speaker to be heard by the person whom the speaker is victimizing, and not part of a plan that the speaker and others have agreed upon – cannot constitute a crime for which someone can be arrested or prosecuted. This is not a close legal call,” David stated in the letter.
“These three officers shared their hatreds only in private—as cowards are wont to do—and did not take any discernible overt acts that furthered their violent fantasies.”
Despite the lack of charges from his office, David said that the inquiry into the ex-officers does not end there.
“These three officers have been enforcing the law in our city, collectively, for over 60 years. We are now left to question whether they have, under the ‘color of law,’ deprived people of their liberty, not because of a crime, but because of the color of their skin,” David stated.
To answer that question, David said he and Williams have requested an investigation by the FBI and David has conferred with members of the United States Attorney’s Office to see if the officers could be charged with federal crimes.
David also told Williams his office had determined the former officers are “Giglio” impaired, meaning they cannot be called as witnesses for the state in criminal cases moving forward.
“Due to the officers’ evident bias against African Americans, we can no longer rely upon them in the fair and impartial administration of justice,” David wrote.
David said he wrote a letter to the New Hanover County Defense Bar, including the Public Defender’s Office, requesting that they contact his office if they are aware of any client who was charged by the former officers who may have been subject to differential treatment.
To date, no one has reached out to David’s office with information regarding any of the officers’ cases.
“If my office learns of new information, from the public, members of the defense bar, or the federal investigation, we will, of course, determine whether any state statute has been violated,” he stated.
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