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Govt-and-politics
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Winston-Salem Council Member D.D. Adams charges former campaign volunteer with harassment

A former campaign volunteer has been charged with making harassing phone calls after Winston-Salem City Council Member and mayor pro tem D.D. Adams sought a criminal summons on April 2 making the complaint.

Bryan Anthony Odell Blue, 35, of Winston-Salem faces one count of making a harassing phone call, a misdemeanor. The summons alleges that Blue telephoned Adams “repeatedly for the purpose of annoying, threatening, terrifying, harassing and embarrassing” her.

“Maybe he does not like my politics or does not like me,” Adams said on Wednesday, when asked about the case. “That does not mean you should call people and use profanity and call them names. I don’t know of anyone who is subjected to this. In the world we live in, it is up to me to protect me.”

Blue said Wednesday that he has indeed called Adams and used profanity, but denies ever threatening the council member.

“I called her phone number that she has on the city web site and I let her have it,” Blue said. “I said some choice words but never threatened her life. I did use a couple choice words because grown people cuss at public officials. I have called her number and let her have it before.”

The charge is not a type that results in someone being taken into custody. Blue has a court date of May 20 to answer to the charge.

Blue and Adams have past political connections. Blue said he volunteered to help Adams in her 2018 campaign for U.S. House, when Adams, a Democrat, ran unsuccessfully against incumbent Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx in the Fifth Congressional District.

Blue said he went on to manage the campaign of Democrat Eunice Campbell, who unsuccessfully challenged Adams in the 2020 primary for the party’s nomination for the North Ward seat, which Adams holds.

In a profanity-laced Facebook video posting he made on the day the charge was filed, Blue repeatedly insulted Adams and said he was looking forward to seeing her in court.

Blue claimed in the Facebook video that Adams’ family members have in turn threatened him. Adams said family members tried to talk to Blue to “de-escalate this.”

According to records from the SBI, Blue was convicted in 2013 in Virginia on a charge of forcible sodomy and received a three-year probationary sentence. In 2018, Blue pleaded guilty in Forsyth County to failing to report a new address as a sex offender.


Crime-and-courts
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Molly Corbett, Thomas Martens released on bond after Davidson County hearing

Late Wednesday afternoon, Molly Corbett and Thomas Martens separately walked out of the Davidson County Jail, each free on a $200,000 bond for a charge of second-degree murder in the 2015 death of Irish businessman Jason Corbett, Molly’s husband.

Judge Mark E. Klass of Davidson Superior Court held a hearing to consider a motion to set bond a month after the N.C. Supreme Court upheld a lower appellate court’s decision to overturn the second-degree murder convictions that sent Molly Corbett and her father, former FBI agent Martens, to prison for up to 25 years. The appellate courts said that the trial judge had made certain errors that substantially deprived Molly Corbett and Martens from proving self-defense and having a fair trial.

Last week, the two were transported from state prisons to the Davidson County Jail, where they were held without bond.

PHOTOS: Molly Corbett, Thomas Martens released on bond

Their attorneys asked for bond to be set at $200,000 or even lower, saying that they posed no threat to the community and did not pose a flight risk.

Assistant District Attorney Alan Martin recited the graphic details of what Molly Corbett and Martens were accused of doing to Jason Corbett and argued that the nature of the crime, the weight of the evidence and their financial resources called for a bond of $1 million each for the father and daughter.

Jason Corbett, 39, was found beaten to death in the early morning hours of Aug. 2, 2015 in the Davidson County home he shared with his wife, Molly Corbett, and his two children, Jack and Sarah, from his first marriage. Molly Corbett had been hired as an au pair for Jason’s children while Jason lived in Ireland, and they began dating. They married in 2011 and moved to the Meadowlands, a golf community in Davidson County. Prosecutors said Molly Corbett and Martens beat Jason to death with a baseball bat and a paving brick. They said the two crushed Jason’s skull and hit him at least 12 times in the head.

Martens testified at the first trial that he beat Jason Corbett repeatedly in an attempt to save the life of his daughter and himself after he said he saw Jason choking Molly Corbett.

Klass set bond at $200,000 and ordered that Martens and Molly Corbett give up their passports (Molly’s attorney said she no longer had one) and not have any contact with anyone in Jason Corbett’s family, including Jason’s two children, Jack and Sarah. They also must appear in court when ordered to do so. Molly Corbett and Martens will likely reside in Knoxville, Tenn., where the Martens’ have a home.

On Wednesday, Molly Corbett, 37, no longer had the blond hair she had during the August 2017 trial. Her hair was now brunette and tied up in a bun. She wore a dark blue jail jumpsuit and orange crocs. Her ankles were shackled. Her father wore an orange jail jumpsuit.

At 4:09 p.m., Molly Corbett, dressed now in a gray T-shirt and jeans, came out, surrounded by her attorneys, Doug Kingsbery and Walter Holton, her mother, Sharon Martens, and one of her brothers.

An hour later, at 5:15 p.m., Thomas Martens walked out, carrying some boxes, and surrounded by his attorneys, Jones Byrd and David Freedman. Both Molly Corbett and Martens declined to comment.

In response to something David Freedman asked as he got into a car, Martens gave a thumbs-up before heading off.

The next step is unclear. Prosecutors and attorneys will share evidence in the case. Usually, either a trial date is set or a plea arrangement is negotiated.

Tracey Corbett Lynch, Jason’s sister, and her husband, had criticized Garry Frank, Davidson County’s district attorney, saying he had offered a deal for the two to plead guilty to manslaughter. She said last week that Molly Corbett and Martens were given a week to decide if they would accept the offer.

She issued a statement late Wednesday, saying that Frank had decided to seek a retrial of Molly Corbett and Martens.

“We look forward to a date being set for a retrial at the earliest opportunity,” she said.

Frank has previously declined to confirm whether a plea deal had been offered. He has said he does not comment publicly on pre-trial negotiations. He reiterated that Wednesday.

Typically, prosecutors can choose to offer a plea deal and provide a deadline for when a defendant either accepts or rejects the deal. If the defendant rejects the deal, then prosecutors would move forward with a trial.

At the hearing Wednesday, Assistant District Attorney Alan Martin recounted what he alleged was strong evidence suggesting that the two brutally murdered Jason Corbett. He described the testimony of a medical examiner from the first trial, who said that Jason Corbett’s skull was crushed and that he had 10 different impact sites on his head from where he was struck. Two of those impact sites showed that he had been struck at least twice. That meant that Jason Corbett was struck in the head at least 12 different times. He was struck at least once after he had died, Martin said.

He also told Klass that Martens called 911 and told the dispatcher that he thought he had killed Jason Corbett.

Martin argued in court that Martens and Molly Corbett have a lot of family support and real property in Tennessee and North Carolina.

“A $10,000 bond to a pauper is different than a $10,000 bond to a person with means,” he said.

But attorneys for Molly Corbett and Martens said the two have no prior criminal convictions and that they complied with previous pre-trial release conditions in connection with the second-degree murder charge.

Freedman, one of Martens’ attorneys, read a letter from a correctional official, saying that Martens had been a model prisoner. He also said Martens not only called 911 but also cooperated for four months with law-enforcement before he was even criminally charged. And after he was charged, he complied with pre-trial release conditions and came to every court hearing, even when the judge’s decisions didn’t go his way.

They also referenced the heavy media attention that the case has received.

“There is literally no place for this young woman to hide, even if she wanted to,” Kingsbery said in court.

It would be punishment if a judge set a higher bond when two appellate courts found that they did not get a fair trial, said Byrd, Martens’ attorney.

After the hearing, family for Molly Corbett and Martens gathered in the hall outside the courtroom. They formed a circle around Sharon Martens.

After Kingsbery explained the process to the family, Michael Earnest, Molly’s uncle, walked up.

“They’re going to be out,” he said, taking a second to compose himself. “There was very strong evidence that Tom saved Molly’s life that night. ..He was doing what any of us who are fathers would do if we found ourselves in that moment, and that was to defend his daughter.”

He later said, “It’s a huge first step. But we know it’s not over.”

The family of Jason Corbett wants a retrial, saying that the evidence is overwhelming that Jason Corbett was murdered.

“We have to stand together against those who think they are above the law, those who can cruelly inflict injury in the most heinous, barbaric way, enough to cause death ten times over,” Tracey Corbett Lynch and her husband, David Lynch, said in a statement.

It’s unclear when a trial date will be set. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a backlog of criminal cases. Martin indicated in court that it might be more than a year before a trial can begin.

PHOTOS: Molly Corbett, Thomas Martens released on bond

Columnists
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Release of retired FBI agent and daughter convicted of Davidson County killing shows many facets of justice

Over some 21 years in office, Garry Frank, the elected district attorney for Davidson and Davie counties, has seen, heard and dealt with more than his share of high-profile, high-pressure tabloid-worthy cases.

His district, 33, is relatively small and covers two counties. Davidson County is home to 167,609 souls and next door Davie 42,346. One might think it’d be relatively low-key.

And yet Frank and his assistants have been enmeshed time and again in such don’t-dare-look-away cases as taking down a flamboyant, corrupt sheriff, losing a murder trial brought against a well-known dentist who nearly cut off his estranged wife’s head and twice now, a murder case that makes headlines on two continents.

State v. Thomas Martens and Molly Corbett, the Sequel, officially started Wednesday. A spacious, new courtroom was filled to its maximum COVID-capacity to hear Judge Mark Klass set bond at $200,000 each, clearing the way for father and daughter to walk free after nearly four years in prison.

“It’s a huge first step,” said Mike Earnest, Martens’ brother-in-law and de facto family spokesman, in the hallway after an initial rush of emotion had subsided. “But we know it’s not over.”

Far from it. The journey has only just re-started and it’s already bumpy.

Back to square one

Anyone who’s truly shocked that Martens and Corbett were freed on bond in the do-over in state v. Martens/Corbett just hasn’t been paying attention.

Jurors, who’re told not to discuss the case every time they blink, managed to do just that during the first trial in 2017, according to affidavits, and individual jurors couldn’t resist talking to network TV news programs.

And Judge David Lee, who presided over the original trial, managed to make a tough situation worse by making evidentiary errors so bad that two appellate courts — the N.C. Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court — agreed that a new trial was the only fair option.

Many observers might concur, too. But not Jason Corbett’s family. Corbett’s Irish clan, since his death in 2015, have not been shy about voicing opinions about what happened nor have they held their tongues over the fates of Martens and Molly Corbett: lock ‘em up and toss the key.

That’s understandable. Grief runs deep, and vengeance, for some, serves as a salve.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Assistant District Attorney Alan Martin told Klass that Jason Corbett’s family held a “strong desire that they be denied bail.”

Never mind the fact that in these United States, Martens and Molly Corbett once again enjoy the presumption of innocence and bond is not to be punitive.

Last week, even before Martens and his daughter were moved from state prison to the confines of the Davidson County Jail, Tracey Corbett Lynch, Jason Corbett’s sister, went on the attack by taking a swipe at Frank, the man who has been looking out for them since 2015.

“We are devastated that the District Attorney for Davidson County has decided to offer a plea deal and not seek a retrial of Tom and Molly Martens who admitted killing Jason Corbett, leaving his children, then 10 and 8, orphaned,” Corbett Lynch said in her e-mailed statement.

“What does it say for justice in North Carolina that you can drug a father of two, then beat him to death with a baseball bat and a paving brick, literally crush his skull, and still escape a murder conviction.”

That’s one opinion. It says the nuance of the American justice may have been lost.

The opinion that counts

The opinion that matters is what Garry Frank thinks. He decides what pleas to offer or whether to offer one at all — not the victims’ families nor a judge or defense lawyer.

His prosecutors won Round One, securing in summer 2017 guilty convictions against Martens and Molly Corbett for second-degree murder. Father and daughter each got between 20 and 25 years in prison.

A more than credible case was made that Martens and Molly acted in self-defense. Fear of losing one’s life is a hell of a motivator.

“There was very strong evidence that Tom saved Molly’s life that night,” Earnest said. “He was doing what any of us who are fathers would do if we found ourselves in that moment, and that was to defend his daughter.”

That puts a plea to manslaughter in play and well within the definition of what’s just. The sentence for a manslaughter conviction would be very close to the time Martens and Molly Corbett have served already.

Is that an ideal solution?

No, because there is no perfect answer for the killing of a human being.

Frank knows better than anyone else that prosecutors represent the state of North Carolina, the people in their districts and the taxpayers who finance the justice system — not the families of the victims, no matter how loud or insistent they may be.

“I’ve got a number of families, victims of homicides and other cases that have been waiting for their cases to be tried for a long time,” Frank said last week. “And we’ve been on an imposed sabbatical on that for the past year.

“The pursuit of justice is rarely easy and that’s the guiding star that we’re trying to keep our sight on for all of this and we’re here for the duration.”


Local
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6-year-old injured in wreck in Winston-Salem dies.

A 6-year-old who was seriously injured in a traffic crash last week in Winston-Salem has died, authorities said Wednesday.

The child died April 1 at a local hospital, Winston-Salem police said. Police didn’t identify the child.

Three adults and the child were injured March 30 in a three-vehicle crash in the 5100 block of Bethabara Park Boulevard, police said.

The child, who wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, sustained life-threatening injuries and was taken to a local hospital for treatment.

Officers responded to the scene at 7:41 a.m. and found three vehicles with significant damage, police said.

Amani Alexis Lash, 19, of Pine Hall Road in Belews Creek was driving a 2013 Dodge that crashed into the back of a 2014 Chevrolet, police said.

Keyondra Me Shet Boston, 26, of Flat Rock Street in Winston-Salem was driving the Chevrolet. The child was in Boston’s car.

Boston’s vehicle was then pushed into the back of a 2017 Nissan, which was driven by Arielle Monique Buford, 29, of Merry Dale Drive in Winston-Salem, police said.

Lash, Boston and Buford were taken to hospital and treated for minor injuries, police said.

The accident remains under investigation.

The child’s death is the city’s 10th traffic fatality this year, as compared with three traffic fatalities during the same period last year.


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