By Benjamin Schachtman | July 29, 2020 at 1:59 PM EDT – Updated July 29 at 2:03 PM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (PORT CITY DAILY) – After admitting to physically assaulting and raping his wife, former Wilmington mayoral candidate Devon Scott is stepping away from the Wilmington Advocacy And Protest Organization, which he helped found earlier this year.
While this is not the first time the allegations have surfaced — and not the first time Devon Scott has admitted to them — it is the first time his wife and accuser Lauren Scott has gone public with details about the assault.
In an interview, Devon Scott acknowledged the assault was a “clear cut rape” and has stated he will step away not only from WAPO, but all public advocacy roles and any political campaigns.
In the wake of these accusations and Scott’s on-the-record confession, shockwaves have traveled throughout the community, in particular Wilmington’s progressive movement.
On social media, there was an avalanche of questions about ‘who knew what and when.’
Members and supporters of his 2019 mayoral campaign said Scott didn’t reveal the rape and that no one on staff had known about the rape during the election. Top staff denounced Scott, expressed regret for not adequately vetting him as a candidate, and apologized to the community.
WAPO asked Devon Scott to step down. In an interview, Devon said the organization was aware of the rape, but that his work was allowed with the blessing of Lauren. Devon said he considered this to be in line with WAPO’s belief in restorative justice, calling it a “penance, having harmed the community before.” In a separate interview, Lauren said she had not given any such blessing.
Those in other organizations had also been aware of the rape but had not been directly affiliated with Devon Scott. Over the last week, several activists and groups, including the lowercase leaders, and the downtown protest community moved to denounce and distance their organizations from him.
There were also calls for criminal charges against Devon Scott and, while no charges have been filed yet, authorities haven’t ruled it out. No statute of limitations exists for felony sexual assault in North Carolina.
Timeline: Rape, campaign, going public
According to Lauren Scott, the assault took place in May 2015, which Devon Scott and others have confirmed.
According to Lauren, there was an argument about financial difficulties between her and Devon earlier in the day. That evening, Lauren said she was asleep on a sleeping bag on the floor. The two had shared an apartment and although Devon had not been staying there, according to Lauren he did have a key.
Devon opened the apartment door and came in. Lauren said she did not get up.
Then, Lauren said she felt cold water being poured on her. She said Devon then bent down quickly, grabbed her by the throat, and slapped her hard, back and forth using the front and back of his hand. He then raped her.
Devon Scott acknowledged these events occurred. He said it was the only rape or sexual assault that occurred and said he’d never physically or sexually assaulted anyone else before or since.
Lauren said that drugs and alcohol were not involved in the assault. She said they did not discuss the incident much afterward. Devon said he offered to turn himself over to the authorities. Lauren said she did not press criminal charges at the time because she was financially dependent on Devon and feared eviction among other issues.
Several years later, Devon Scott filed to campaign for mayor of Wilmington. In conversations with his campaign staff, he did not reveal the rape during the vetting process, where candidates are essentially asked if they have any past actions that could damage the integrity of the campaign.
Asked about his decision not to reveal the incident to his campaign staff or the public, Devon Scott issued a statement, which read in part: “By the time of the campaign, Lauren had expressed my redemption and that I earnestly acted to pay for and turn away from my crime and my potential to commit it. She encouraged me to run [for mayor] and agreed that if my virtue were called into question, she would vouch for my absolution. I didn’t intend to lie to anyone or harm anyone’s faith in justice or politics. I believed I was doing right by the same type of restorative justice, reform, and faith I advocated for. I can’t apologize enough. Nothing excuses rape. I will not and cannot deny the gravity of this.”
Lauren said he had supported Devon’s run in the hopes that it would lead to him being able to financially support the family. She did not say that her support ‘absolved’ him of raping her.
For many, the allegations first came to light in late December of 2019, after Devon’s narrow loss to incumbent Mayor Bill Saffo. Lauren published a post on Facebook, stating that Devon had beaten and raped her and lamenting that the community had “almost made him mayor.”
The post was taken down shortly afterward and Lauren told several people she did not want to continue to make it public. She was in the process of separating from Devon but was still partially financially dependent on him and hoped that, rather than be arrested and incarcerated, Devon would make good on his financial obligations, including child support.
Devon Scott dropped out of public view for several months after the election, but in 2020 began returning, commenting on public issues. In the comments of several of his posts, people brought up the rape — and Devon acknowledged it.
[Editor’s note: In late December 2019, Port City Daily tried unsuccessfully to contact Lauren Scott. Over the next two months, Port City Daily spoke with Devon Scott — who had acknowledged and confirmed the allegations in several Facebook posts — in further attempts to discuss the issue as he was returning to public life. Devon said Lauren was still not comfortable going public with the information at the time, which Lauren later confirmed.]
Recently, Lauren said she finally felt she was in an appropriate place to go fully public with her story. In addition to speaking to the press, Lauren also posted several times to Facebook, detailing some of her allegations against Devon, along with her frustration that WAPO had allowed Devon such a public role despite his actions.
Devon again acknowledged the rape, although he faced backlash for describing it as having “sexually touched her in anger.” He later admitted this was a “wishy-washy and protective way to describe a crime.” Devon agreed that “rape” was the appropriate word and asked to be held accountable.
Asked about those who had donated to his campaign — and who now felt deceived and betrayed — Devon Scott said he was planning to contact the Board of Elections to see what provisions were available for him to donate his remaining campaign funds to a domestic violence charity.
According to the New Hanover County Board of Elections, that conversation hasn’t taken place yet. However, Elections Director Rae Hunter-Havens did provide a list of acceptable uses of campaign funds, which includes charitable contributions allowed under IRS regulations and the return of donations to individual donors.
Currently, Devon Scott is not facing any criminal charges, although both the Wilmington Police Department and the office of District Attorney Ben David are aware of the statements made on social media, including Devon’s admission of guilt.
[Editor’s note: Under North Carolina law, the type of assault committed by Devon Scott would be technically considered ‘sexual assault.’ However, both Lauren and Devon Scott have publicly referred to the attack as a ‘rape.’]
In an interview, Devon said he understood he had effectively confessed to sexual assault or even aggravated sexual assault (a felony that requires registration as a sex offender). Devon reiterated that he had offered to turn himself in after the assault, and claimed again that Lauren had dissuaded him. Devon acknowledged that there were no statutory limitations on criminal charges for the assault and that, if needs be, he would face those charges.
WPD did not rule out pressing charges. According to the Wilmington Police Department (WPD), the criminal investigations division is looking into the incident. The first steps will include reaching out to the victim, according to WPD.
The District Attorney’s office said it would not get involved at this point, but encouraged anyone who wanted to report a crime to contact law enforcement.
“We have forwarded the posts to the appropriate authorities. We urge anyone who believes they may be the victim of a crime or a witness to a crime to report it immediately. The District Attorney’s Office does not investigate allegations of crimes, therefore victims and other individuals reporting crime are directed to the law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over the place where the offense allegedly occurred,” according to Samantha Dooies, spokesperson for the district attorney’s office.
The participation of a victim of a crime is not necessary for charges to be brought against a suspect — that’s because a criminal case is between the State of North Carolina and a defendant. Thus, the Wilmington Police Department can, in theory, make an arrest without the victim pressing charges. The District Attorney’s office can also, in theory, convene a grand jury to bring an indictment against a suspect even without an arrest — although this only occurs in exceptional and rare cases.
However, while a victim’s participation and testimony are not necessary they are clearly an important element in establishing probable cause before making an arrest and in building a case ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ in criminal court. Cases without a victim — or with an uncooperative victim — are unlikely to lead to an arrest and even less likely be successfully prosecuted.
WAPO confirmed that Devon Scott had been asked to step away from the organization. WAPO declined to comment on any past discussions about whether or not to allow Devon to participate, given his assault and rape of Lauren.
The lowercase leaders did not address whether any members previously knew about Devon’s actions. The group did clarify that Devon was not an affiliated member and that his presence at lowercase events was not by invitation. The group posted the following statement:
We want to express how inspired and proud of Lauren Scott we are. She is beyond brave and so strong. We hope she feels the [community’s] love and support; we will do everything we can to help her through this time. We would also like to note that Devon Scott never had a part or role within the lowercase leaders, with the exception of the two times he spoke at a protest as an individual citizen, without invitation. Devon was an adviser to WAPO, a group that we worked with on drafting the 7 demands, among many other groups. That is the extent of our relation to him. We will never tolerate any form of abuse, harassment, or bigotry. These people have no place in our movement, in our group, or on those steps.
Devon Scott’s campaign staff members said they did not know about the assault and rape until Lauren Scott’s December Facebook post, after the election had been over for almost two months.
Former campaign manager Evan Folds posted a lengthy response on Facebook. Folds condemned the rape, offered his admiration for Lauren’s “bravery and willingness to speak her truth,” and saying anyone capable of “such a violation” should not hold an elected or leadership position. Folds apologized for not doing more to “discover these circumstances” prior to the campaign. He also noted that “[q]uestions were asked about skeletons, and assurances were made that there were none. I believed in him. In this way, Devon let us all down.”
Veteran organizer Denny Best, who worked on Devon Scott’s campaign, had harsh words for the former candidate, criticizing him for trying to use semantics (i.e. “sexually touched in anger”) to “hide” from the assault. Best called for Devon to dissociate himself from activism completely. While Best confirmed he only learned of the assault after the election, he apologized for ‘failing to vet’ Devon as a candidate, having been one of the people who convinced him to run.
Brian Campbell, who worked for Devon’s campaign, also found out about the sexual assault only after the election. Campbell said had there been “any inkling” of what had happened, he never would have worked for the campaign.
Campbell expressed frustration at what he saw as Devon’s deception and his more recent “half-assed apology.”
“Devon did gaslight people to the point where they did foolish things — I think Devon gaslit the entire city,” Campbell said. “It is up to anyone who truly believes in the ideas of the campaign to support Lauren Scott and to denounce and break ties with Devon Scott.”