By Abbi Overfelt
January 24, 2014
LUMBERTON — Robeson County District Attorney Johnson Britt has decided not to prosecute Lumbee Tribal Chairman Paul Brooks for an alleged assault against a former member of the Tribal Council.
Louise Mitchell, the former secretary of the Tribal Council and alleged victim, is not pleased.
“This is an injustice to me. I feel I was not treated fairly,” Mitchell said Wednesday. “I am highly disappointed in our judicial system in Robeson County. No one heard my story. I am a victim and the law is not working to protect me.”
Mitchell on Nov. 18 filed assault charges against Brooks, claiming that on Nov. 13 he “grabbed her arm and pushed” her as she attempted in her position as council secretary to post an ordinance for public review at the tribe’s administration complex, better known as The Turtle. Brooks admits to a confrontation, but contends there was no assault.
District Court Judge Herbert L. Richardson agreed on Nov. 25 to a list of temporary actions submitted by Britt and Brooks’ attorney, former state Sen. Tony Rand, that if adhered to by both parties would resolve the case. The “cooling-off period” included provisions prohibiting parties from having any personal contact or making personal attacks against each other publicly.
Britt said that since all parties had adhered to the requirements of the cooling off period, “in light of what appears as political unrest within the Lumbee Tribe,” it was in the best interest of the tribe and everyone involved that the charge, which was a misdemeanor, against the chairman be dismissed. Britt said he dismissed the charge at his “prosecutorial discretion.”
“I have maintained my innocence from the onset of this charge,” Brooks said in a statement Wednesday. “It is unfortunate that this situation has taken up so much of the court’s time.”
The case was to have been heard in Robeson County District Court on Tuesday of this week.
According to Mitchell, she sent a certified letter to Britt on Dec. 2 making it clear that she did not want the charge dismissed. In the letter, she said she requested that the case be prosecuted before a judge outside of Robeson and Cumberland counties.
Mitchell said that Britt never responded to her letter, answered a phone call or met with her to discuss the case when she stopped by his office.
Mitchell said that she was under the impression as late as Tuesday that her case would be heard in court. A handwritten order outlining the cooling off period stated the case would be “reconsidered” after 45 days, she said.
“There was no mention of dismissal. I wanted my day in court. I didn’t get that,” Mitchell said.
Britt said that if Mitchell chooses to, she can pursue her case in civil court.
“She has that option just like anyone else,” he said.
Mitchell said Wednesday that she has not made up her mind if she will pursue her case against the chairman in civil court.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I’m just praying at this point.”