The year under the gavel

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The year 2013 was a litigious one in Brunswick County. Some high-profile cases involving officers of the court were adjudicated while the outcomes of others against the parks and recreation department and sheriff’s office are pending into 2014.


Jan. 25: A Brunswick County jury found media strategist Edward Lee Rapp guilty of libel against Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Ola Lewis.

The 12-member jury, which deliberated for an hour-and-a-half after three days of testimony, awarded $5,000 in presumed damages and $100,000 in punitive damages in connection with Rapp’s Facebook and blog postings on Carolina Talk Network about Lewis from April 2010.

That same month, Lewis filed a lawsuit against Rapp on grounds his postings claiming she had violated North Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct for wearing a campaign button supporting state Senate candidate Bill Rabon were untrue and libelous. Rapp supported Rabon’s opponent, Bettie Fennell, in the Republican primary

Canon 7B of the state Code of Judicial Conduct outlines permissible political conduct for judges in North Carolina. Lewis referred in particular to the paragraph of Canon 7B(2) stating if a judge is a candidate, he/she may “endorse any individual seeking election to any office.”

At the time of Rapp’s postings, Lewis testified she was an unopposed candidate in the election for her current position as District 13 Senior Resident Superior Court judge. The Supreme Court seat she seeks will be up for election this year.


May 9: Former Assistant District Attorney Elaine Kelley agreed to a plea arrangement to avoid felony charges.

She pleaded guilty to misdemeanor misprision of felony in Brunswick County Superior Court. Misprision of a felony is failing to report knowledge of a felony to the appropriate authorities.

Kelley also received a 60-day suspended sentence, one year of unsupervised probation and her law license was suspended for six months.

She also had to make immediate restitution of $14,190.38 as well as pay court costs.

Kelley was indicted Aug. 20, 2012, with former District Attorney Rex Gore, on a felony count of obtaining property by false pretense and a count of felonious conspiracy to obtain property by false pretense.

The indictment stems from a time period between May 2005 and December 2010, when Gore allegedly “unlawfully, willfully and feloniously” entered into an agreement with Kelley to submit false expense reports in order to receive monetary reimbursement for travel expenses she did not incur. Kelley subsequently was paid more than $14,000 that she wasn’t entitled to during that time period, according to the indictment.

Gore pleaded guilty Aug. 19 to misdemeanor willful neglect to discharge a duty after reaching a plea agreement during a special session of Brunswick County Superior Court.

The state’s felony conspiracy to obtain property by false pretense charge against Gore was dismissed as part of the agreement.

Judge W. Robert Bell handed down a suspended sentence of 60 days in jail and 12 months of supervised probation and ordered Gore to pay a $5,000 fine and court costs.

Once the $5,000 fine is paid, the terms of Gore’s supervision will be transferred from supervised to unsupervised. His license to practice law in North Carolina also was suspended for six months.


Aug. 12: Shallotte lawyer Richard Hollar filed a lawsuit against Brunswick County, alleging its youth sports leagues encouraged an illegal and unsafe hit on his son during a game in 2012. Hollar claims the county violated its own background check policy for volunteers, citing the two coaches involved in his son’s incident who have criminal records.

According to the suit, Hollar’s son, Kasey, was intentionally and illegally hit by an opposing player at the instructions of the opposing coaches, Brian McDowell and William Powell during a youth football game Oct. 6.

Powell, an assistant coach, resigned from his position as a volunteer participant in the county’s youth leagues, county attorney Huey Marshall said.

McDowell, the head coach, who has been suspended by the county from coaching, has coached in Brunswick County youth leagues for 14 years.

According to Hollar’s lawsuit, McDowell has been charged with 14 misdemeanors since 1998; Powell has been convicted of eight felonies since 1990, and has been charged with two misdemeanors since then.


Sept. 25: A lawsuit against the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office proceeds through federal court after a receiving stolen goods charge against a local businessman was dropped.

Deputies arrested Andrew Gentile of Sunset Beach, who works as a private investigator in Ocean Isle Beach, Jan. 8. District Court Judge Jerry Jolly granted the state’s request to dismiss the charge June 28.

The lawsuit not only claims Gentile was wrongfully arrested, but also he and his wife, Christine, have been harassed by deputies.

Gentile, his wife, and his wife’s business, Redgator Pawn & Jewelry Shop in Ocean Isle Beach, filed the lawsuit in Brunswick County Superior Court on March 28, but it moved to federal court in Wilmington on April 25.

Gentile, a former Ocean Isle Beach assistant police chief, was accused of knowingly accepting stolen property to be sold at Redgator. Records show he was working on an unrelated case with attorneys in New Hanover County on Aug. 22 when the stolen items were sold to Redgator.

The lawsuit moved to federal court because it claims constitutional violations. No trial date has been set.