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Crooks, thieves and a homo-bigots at the local level


Rap sheet: I think Vincent Brown has a big future as a corrupt Repug. Is the Bush team hiring anyone for the Gulf Enterprise Zone? Vince may be just your kind of guy.

We’ve got a good little story going on here in Durham. One of the mayoral candidates, Vincent Brown, seems incapable of telling the truth and has a mile-long rap sheet. This guy is a serious scam artist, who managed to get a former Durham County commissioner and the former president of the local chapter of the NAACP to be his campaign treasurer, and was endorsed by the county’s pathetic Republican Party, which is finally asking Brown to withdraw from the mayor’s race.

The best part? He has chastised incumbent Mayor Bill Bell for not being aggressive enough in combating crime. Look in the mirror, fool. He didn’t show at a meet-the-candidate public forum sponsored by the local Democratic Party on Tuesday — the only empty chair on the stage had Brown’s name on it.

You can’t even get a clear basic background on the man. (N&O;):

Over the years, he appears to have used at least four variations of his name — Vincent Brown, Vincent C. Brown, Vincent C. Brown Sr. and Vincent Cortez Brown. He has also used at least two birth dates — one in 1960 and another in 1963.

On a candidate’s questionnaire Brown filed with The News & Observer, he wrote that he is 45. When asked his age in an interview, he said 43. Asked to explain the discrepancy, Brown gave the 1960 date used on his voter registration as his true birthday, which would make him 44.

Though he says he has lived in Durham for 12 years, legal records, phone listings and credit reports indicate that Brown and his wife, Jennifer Brown, have moved often — living in Greensboro, Hillsborough and Danville, Va., among other places.

He pleaded guilty to 46 misdemeanor charges, under plea agreements after first being charged with felonies. A sample of what is on Brown’s rap sheet and list of lies, revealed in court documents, police reports, prison files and other public records – there are over 100 charges.

* writing worthless checks
* simple assault
* fraud
* providing fictitious information to a police officer
* possessing a weapon on school grounds
* violating probation
* failing to pay income tax
* driving while impaired.
* convicted of felony forgery in Pender County
* numerous civil actions filed against him, mostly seeking payment. Earlier this month, an order was issued against Brown on behalf of one of his former attorneys for unpaid bills and interest totaling $70,810.
* promoting the prostitution of a minor (with three charges involving the same victim!).
[The charges took two years to go to trial and the victim, a member of Brown’s church then refused to testify, according to the N&O..; “The charges were not dismissed because of an insufficiency of evidence or because the defendant was innocent,” according to Durham assistant district attorney. “The charges were dismissed because of the desires of the victim and the victim’s family. Her father did not want her to go through a trial, and he said it had already been handled within the church.”]

* Brown actually drove to an N&O; interview last week driving a late-model pickup truck — even though criminal records indicate his driver’s license was permanently revoked back in 1992.
* Brown said he lived in Greensboro in 1988 as a student at N.C. A&T; State University, where he said he earned a four-year degree in civil engineering. The university registrar’s office said last week that no one under Brown’s name or either of the birth dates he has used earned a degree or attended classes there.

What does this dolt have to say for himself on the criminal charges? He claims it’s all a case of mistaken identity. Hmmmm…how does that explain all the people that recognize him and that he has fingerprints on file?

“That’s not me,” Brown said Thursday. “I don’t know who that is. This is wrong. … There are so many Vincent Browns.”

He then said the charges shouldn’t matter anyway, because they were dismissed — information not included on the documents he was shown. Asked how he knew the charges had been dismissed if he was not the Vincent Brown who had been arrested, Brown paused; then he laid out a scenario in which he was a victim of mistaken identity and had to hire a lawyer to help set the record straight. He reiterated that he had never been arrested.

A Durham assistant district attorney, Tracey Cline, identified Brown as the man she was set to prosecute on the prostitution charges.

…Cline said she was surprised by Brown’s claims of mistaken identity. When the police investigated the prostitution charges, they used Brown’s fingerprints to run a records check that matched his 1963 birth date, his Social Security number and his Pennsylvania birthplace.

I could go on and on, but read even more on this guy in the followup article, “More say Durham candidate told lies.” The first story triggered a ton of phone calls and e-mails from people across the state who say they have had run-ins with Brown.

***

At that open forum, since the buzz on our man Brown was so high, it appears all the candidates were asked to disclose whether they had ever been arrested on a criminal charge or had been to jail. Eight out of the 17 candidates for mayor or city council has had run-ins with the law. Some of the issues were minor (speeding), but some of these characters really should have thought twice before running for public office. What’s worse is that some of these folks are dumb enough to get up there and lie when judgments and guilty pleas are in the public record. Is there some kind of congenital lie gene in aspiring politicians? More info from Michael Biesecker’s N&O; piece:

* Shawn R. Cunningham (Ward 3): arrested on a felony count of embezzlement in 1996 and a misdemeanor count of carrying a concealed weapon in 1992.H e pleaded guilty to both, with the felony embezzlement charge being lowered to a misdemeanor count as part of a deal with prosecutors. Cunningham, whose resume says he has worked for banks and mortgage companies, also has been charged with at least 15 misdemeanor counts of writing worthless checks over an eight-year span.

* Joe Williams (Ward 1): “I don’t have any skeletons in my closet.” Records show Williams was convicted in a 1986 trial for a single misdemeanor count of assault on a female. He was ordered by a judge to “pay for damages to teeth” in an amount to be determined by the clerk of court. When asked about the charge after the event, Williams said it resulted from an altercation with his sister. “Everybody has fights with their sister,” said Williams, who was 44 when he was convicted.

* John Holmes (Ward 2): told the crowd that he had been arrested once for driving with a revoked license, spending about an hour in jail before his wife bailed him out. Court records show Holmes has been charged for driving with a revoked license nine times since 1992, most recently last year. He pleaded guilty to those charges on four occasions. Holmes could not be reached Tuesday night to answer about the discrepancy.

* Steven Matherly (Ward 3) acquitted on disorderly conduct and trespassing charges from his actions at a Durham school board meeting. But he did not mention five charges for writing wort
hless checks between 1990 and 1995, or a 1993 charge for driving with a revoked license. Records show Matherly pleaded guilty to two of the misdemeanor check charges, as well as the license charge. Asked about the charges, Matherly said: “They are what they are, and that is all I have to say.”

* John Best (already a council member): sent to jail for two days by a judge earlier this year for his failure to pay child support and alimony. According to the Durham County clerk of court, Best now owes his ex-wife $18,546. The council member has repeatedly said that the outstanding balance is alimony and that he has always paid his child support. But according to the clerk’s office, $1,707 in child support is owed. Best also pleaded guilty to driving while impaired in 1998. Best said Tuesday that the conviction resulted from a “mistake in judgment” that had not affected his performance on the council over the past four years.

* Jackie Wagstaff (running for mayor): charged with two felony counts of obtaining property by false pretense for doctoring city check requests from North East Central Durham Reinvestment Inc., a city-financed social services organization she ran. She later pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts in a deal with prosecutors.

* Victoria Peterson (Ward 1), said she had been arrested for trespassing while protesting at abortion clinics. Records show five second-degree trespassing charges filed against Peterson in North Carolina between 1989 and 2001. She pleaded not guilty on three of the counts, but the records indicate she was found guilty at trial.

***

I have a special place for Ms. Victoria Peterson in my heart because she is is a good representative of our local Af-AmTaliban, serving as president of Christians for Morality in Government. She’s an ace homo-bigot that didn’t make it out of the primary the last time she ran.

In 2003, she testified before the County Commissioners to urge them not to extend partnership benefits because: “Many of them are infected with diseases, and their lifestyles are very, very dangerous,” Peterson told the board. “Many don’t live to be senior citizens. Who’s going to pay this expense if they get sick in their gay lifestyle?” And here’s another gem of her reasoning: “The gay community makes plenty of money. Just because of how you have sex, does not mean anyone is entitled to special rights.”

The measure passed, making Durham North Carolina’s first county to enact domestic partner benefits. Chapel Hill and Carrboro also offer domestic-partner benefits to both heterosexual and same-sex couples. Peterson threatened to sue the county over the passage of the measure.

When a bill to add sexual orientation to state anti-discrimination was defeated in 2003, she said: “They could come to work dressed one day looking like a female and two weeks later looking like a male. We do not recognize people who actively engage in a gay lifestyle.”

My favorite Peterson quote came after she was roundly defeated in the 2003 primary. She just couldn’t understand how, a good “Christian” conservative like herself came in next to last in a field of seven candidates in queer-laden, progressive Durham (no link to this N&O; article, “Bell dominates mayor’s race in Durham”):

Victoria Peterson, a community activist and frequent critic of the council, finished seventh, eliminated by the more than 2,700 votes she trailed Herndon.

“I am disappointed, to be honest,” said Peterson, who was not endorsed by any of the major groups. “No one told the people who went to the polls to vote for me to vote for me. Politics were played with who got endorsements and who didn’t. The political groups aren’t looking out for the community.”

***

All that said, we do have a progressive candidate out there that has gained the Independent Weekly’s endorsement, Regina Stanley-King. Blender Reina emailed:

I wanted to put the word out to you about a good friend of mine that is running for city council. It’s Regina Stanley-King, and she’s already done pretty well for herself, getting the Independent Weekly’s endorsement, and doing well with Durham’s gay community (supporting Liability insurance measures) last night at the Democratic meeting in town.

She’s a good woman, and really wants to know the diverse population that makes up the city. Heck, recently she dropped by the new 305 South (new space owned by the old owners of Ooh-La-Latte/Untidy Museum on my suggestion for someplace fun and funky to check out, and ended up chatting with the owners for a good hour about all kinds of things. They loved her, and She’s enjoying seeing all the sides of Durham she’d been missing out on.

Stanley-King may have an uphill battle in Ward 2 as her opponent is current city councilman Howard Clement, who has been on the council a looong time (some say too long), but he has always ended up back in the chair..

Durham’s primary elections are on October 11.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding