Supporters, opponents split over former county sheriff’s legacy

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By Caroline Curran, Reporter

While some prominent county figures have rallied behind Ronald Hewett, some Hewett opponents were quick to share their discontent with the former sheriff Monday in Raleigh.


Prior to Hewett’s sentencing, several community members, friends and some county officials wrote letters to U.S. District Judge W. Earl Britt in support of Hewett, urging leniency in his sentencing. More supporters attended Hewett’s sentencing Monday, including county commissioner Phil Norris, Shallotte Alderman Alan Lewis and more than a dozen other supporters, family and friends.

Brunswick County Manager Marty Lawing wrote in his letter to Britt, “I have known Ronald Hewett for slightly over seven years since the time that I was appointed to the position of county manager for Brunswick County.”

“I am convinced that Mr. Hewett will continue to be a leader and an asset to the Brunswick County community in whatever role he chooses going forward,” Lawing writes.

Jana Berg, assistant county attorney, writes she has known Hewett “for quite a few years.”

“I write this letter to pray that Your Honor please consider these mitigating factors and good works Ronald Hewett has done during his life as a committed and loyal public servant and to please use your judicial discretion to exercise mercy and leniency.”

Wilmington doctor Jonathan Crane, who says he has known Hewett since 1992, also wrote to Britt.

“Ron Hewett is a wonderful man with a great heart that has the best intentions. He made mistakes. He definitely paid dearly for his mistakes. Judge Britt, I would request that you please take into consideration the tremendous amount of good that Ron has done,” Crane writes.

“The negative which came forth is really a small percentage of this man’s life, dreams and ambitions.”

Ronnie and Clarice Holden, owners of Twin Lakes restaurant and Island Breeze in Sunset Beach wrote to “vouch for his integrity and honesty both as a good and decent person and as sheriff of Brunswick County.”

“We believe he can and will continue [to] be a positive influence in other’s lives. We stand along with hundreds and thousands in our county wishing only good things for our sheriff.”

While Hewett had many supporters in court, not everyone in attendance was a fan of the former sheriff.

“There are very good law enforcement officers, and it only takes a few to give law enforcement a black eye,” Halifax County Sheriff’s Office investigator T. Harris said Monday.

“And if you break the law, you should go to prison,” he added.

Another law enforcement officer weighed in after Hewett’s sentencing.

“On behalf of the citizens of Brunswick County, since Sheriff Hewett didn’t apologize to them, I’d like to express my sympathies and apologies as an officer of this state and of this country,” Lt. L.T. Burch of the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office said.

Hewett supporters and detractors clashed outside the courthouse after the sentence was handed down.

George Cooper, a Leland resident who was shot by two sheriff’s deputies after allegedly raising a shotgun at them in May 2007, said his gun was not loaded when he was shot.

An investigation by the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation cleared the two deputies of any wrongdoing, but sworn affidavits included in the petition to remove Hewett from office claim Hewett was drunk when he arrived at the Maco Road crime scene.

“There was never a shot fired. There was nothing in the gun and he knows it,” Cooper said.

“He’s a liar,” he repeated several times.

Hewett supporter Frank Hewett chimed in, inciting a yelling match between him and Cooper.

“I want the truth to be known. That man, Ronald Hewett, has done more for Brunswick County than any other sheriff,” Frank Hewett argued.

Frank Hewett said the sentence was unjust.

“I think that it could have been a little more lenient. I think he has done a lot more good than he has harm.”

Cooper agrees Hewett’s sentence was unjust, but doesn’t agree with Frank Hewett.

“He should have gotten 10 years. That’s how I feel about it.”