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After years of doing things the wrong way, former Brunswick County Sheriff Ronald Hewett took a step in the right direction Monday afternoon.
Standing before peers, friends, family, attorneys—and some naysayers—Hewett publicly addressed the charge he had criminally obstructed justice in a federal investigation into his tenure as Brunswick County Sheriff.
Before U.S. District Judge Earl Britt, Hewett said he takes “full responsibility” for his actions.
For most of the federal grand jury investigation, Hewett repeatedly claimed he had no idea why he was under fire. He often did so with tears in his eyes, rallying for support from the community that had dutifully stood behind him for years.
Standing in a court of law Monday, Hewett took responsibility for what he has been accused of and apologized.
“I can’t tell you how sorry I am—the remorse I feel,” he said.
Hewett’s apology is a long time coming and is a step forward in a long, difficult process of repentance and healing. Soon, his time on this side of the law will culminate with serving 16 months behind bars in a federal prison facility.
And while justice has been properly served in this matter, there’s little reason to rejoice in the outcome of the investigation.
Hewett was a hometown boy who worked hard to make Brunswick County a better, safer place to live. His merits as sheriff—which were many—are now marred by what appears to be an ego left unchecked and other personal demons that had a detrimental effect on his very public life.
And while Hewett moves through this life chapter, still ahead, he faces state charges of embezzlement by a public official, three counts, and one count of obstruction of justice.
It’s a long but necessary process set to remind us that no one—no matter how beloved, no matter how trusted and adored—is above the law.
Monday’s outcome is another unfortunate bruise on the face of Brunswick County law enforcement. The first cheek had been turned when the community suffered through the wrongdoing and subsequent imprisonment of former Sheriff Herman Strong.
Who would have thought it would have happened again right here in Brunswick County?
As we await the outcome of Hewett’s state charges, we continue to look ahead and hope this community will never again know the shame and embarrassment of what happens when a high-ranking law enforcement official goes bad.
And now that Hewett is poised to face his sentence, other innocent public servants are left with the task of polishing that tarnished badge. It’s up to these men and women of Brunswick County law enforcement to once again regain the public’s trust.
We hope they have learned valuable lessons about what not to do from those who have served before them. We put our trust in these men and women and hope mistakes of the past stay locked away in the past.