Unfit Prosecutor. Unfinished Business.
N.C.’s First Judicial District Attorney is running for Superior Court Judge. Here’s why that’s a bad idea.
Wartime Publishers, September 13, 2022. Opinion.
*Updated Wednesday, September 14, 2022 — Wartime Publishers has still received no comment from the District Attorney Andrew Womble. However, the family of LeeAnn Fletcher has informed us that the trial has been continued to March 2023.
In the past two years, Eastern North Carolina’s District Attorney, Andrew Womble has been at the center of two high-profile, and heavily publicized cases. One case is still ongoing. The other case resulted in a $3 million settlement between Pasquotank County and the family of alleged drug trafficker, Andrew Brown, Jr.
In July 2020 the suspicious death of Kitty Hawk woman, Amanda LeeAnn Fletcher Hartleben, caused a social media uproar. After inaction and alleged negligence from local police, family and friends of the victim demanded action from a reluctant, and defiant Womble.
In April of 2021 Andrew Brown, Jr. was shot and killed by Pasquotank Sheriff’s Department deputies while attempting to serve a warrant on drug-related charges. After demands from civil rights advocates including attorney Bakari Sellers for release of the full, unredacted body cam footage of what they described as an “execution” of Brown, District Attorney Womble refused.
In June of 2021 the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Department announced a settlement in a $30 million lawsuit, awarding the Brown family $3 million. On June 6th NPR reported on the settlement, adding: “The county’s payment resolves potential liability against the defendants and any individual officers who were either named or could be named as defendants in the lawsuit, the news release said. The family also entered into a stipulation in which it dismisses all claims against the defendants, namely Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten II and three sheriff’s deputies, as well as other potential claims arising from Brown’s death.”
In the case of Amanda LeeAnn Fletcher Hartleben, the family is still awaiting justice. A suspect was arrested and charged with second degree murder in Hartleben’s death in October of 2020. The suspect wasn’t formally charged until October of 2021, a full year after the arrest. After an initial trial date was set for May of 2022, continuations have left family and friends of the victim wondering when the trial will take place.
In July of 2022, a full two years after Hartleben’s death, local news source Outer Banks Voice reported: “ When asked for an update on the case this week, First District Assistant District Attorney Jeff Cruden said: “ (we are) waiting to hear availability of defendant’s ‘expert’ and get a copy of her report. Once we get that information, Judge Tillett will select a trial date.”
Wartime Publishers reached out via email to District Attorney Womble to determine if a trial date has been set. DA Womble is running for Superior Court Judge in this November’s election. His Chief Assistant, Jeff Cruden is hoping to replace Womble as First Judicial District Attorney. As of the writing of this opinion, we have not received a response.
In June of 2021 NC civil rights leaders requested a United States Department of Justice investigation into Andrew Brown Jr.’s death. Wartime Publishers also requested a full pattern and practice investigation into the Office of the First Judicial District Attorney by U.S Attorney General Merrick Garland. Wartime Publishers has not received any response on this matter.
While the settlement between Pasquotank County and the family of Andrew Brown, Jr. may have silenced those who question the justification of Mr. Brown’s killing, family and friends of Amanda LeeAnn Fletcher Hartleben still await justice.
Wartime Publishers has reached out to the District Attorney for any information about updates on the trial, including whether there have been meetings between the prosecution and defense to discuss the matter. When we receive a response we will update this story.