Federal prosecutors filed a motion Feb. 11 to set the trial of former Buncombe County Sheriff Bobby Medford and three of his deputies on corruption charges for March 25. While this would be past the normal amount of time suggested by the federal Speedy Trial Act, the U.S. Attorney’s Office maintains that a roomful of evidence — including some that suggests other WNC sheriffs may have been involved — and a special out-of-town judge make the later date necessary. The full text of their motion can be read here.
The evidence from the Medford case currently takes up an entire room of the federal courthouse, one reason prosecutors are pushing for the March 25 date:
“Those cases, plus the instant case, involve the execution of more than 30 search warrants in North Carolina and South Carolina, the seizure of more than 65 banker’s boxes of documents … orders authorizing the obtaining of tax returns for more than ten persons, transcripts of more than 100 grand jury witnesses, video and audio recordings of bribe payments made to one sheriff and discussions of payments made to multiple other sheriffs in the Western District of North Carolina.”
In a Jan. 15 hearing on whether or not to release Medford and his deputies to house arrest before the trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Edwards noted that “The ‘de-Baathification’ of the Sheriff’s Department and local law enforcement, so to speak, is not over yet,” and that the investigation continues.
Because of the sheer volume of evidence—the order notes that the room doesn’t contain some of the “bulkier items of evidence (such as video poker machines and computers)” prosecutors suggest a later date to give attorneys for the four defendants time to fully review the evidence.
At the Jan. 15 hearing, Medford’s attorney Stephen Lindsay, complained that he had not had time to review the evidence.
But the literal and figurative weight of the evidence isn’t the only reason the government has asked for a delay — they’re also trying to work around the schedule of Judge Thomas Ellis III, who has been specially chosen for the case from the Eastern District of Virginia.
The document notes that Ellis was chosen “following the recusal by all the judges of the Western District of North Carolina and the withdrawal by Judge Osteen of the Middle District of North Carolina. Judge Ellis therefore must deal with his regular case load … involving several extremely complex cases, as well as this case.”
The attorneys for Medford and his deputies have until Feb. 25 to respond to the government’s trial date.
— David Forbes, staff writer