ELIZABETHTOWN — “Convicts” from across the county plead their cases Thursday and were allowed back on the streets for what, in a real courthouse, would be a small sum of money — $100 or $200.
It was all in the name of fun and for a good cause, though, when residents of Bladen County were brought by the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office to a mock jail at the Board of Education building for the Bladen County Educational Foundation’s sixth annual Jail-A-Thon.
As things were getting underway at the Central Office, Ray Britt, owner of Ray’s Furniture, was brought before Elizabethtown Attorney David Wall (also known, for this event, as “Judge” Wall), who charged him with purchasing stolen goods and selling them at his store. Wall asked Sgt. Thomas Atkinson, who arrested Britt and brought him in, if he had experienced any problems with Britt.
“He tried to run on me, Judge,” said Atkinson.
“I just finally ran out of gas, and he caught me,” jested Britt.
“You have a serious felony — selling stolen goods — and to add to that, you tried to run from one of the most likable law enforcement officers we have,” charged Wall. Bail was set at $100, which was promptly paid by Britt.
Next, Elizabethtown Town Councilman Rufus Lloyd voluntarily presented himself before the judge, pleading guilty to unstated charges. Wall volunteered to drop the charges and let him go with a fine.
County Board of Commissioners Chairman and East Bladen varsity baseball coach Russell Priest arrived for sentencing, and was charged with bribery of athletic officials.
“I’ve been trying to do that for years, but it hasn’t worked,” Priest volunteered.
Wall advised him to take advantage of his right to remain silent and said, “You’ve been having such a good year that folks say you must be involved in bribery.” Priest was declared guilty, bail was set at $100, and Priest was released to continue his successful career at the high school.
Margaret Lawrence, whom Bladen County Schools Information Officer Valerie Newton called a “habitual felon,” arrived, as she has every other year, and paid her fine for “providing false and fictitious information on grant applications.”
Wall told Bladen County Register of Deeds Beverly Parks, who arrived next, “You’ve been charged with improper cancellation of deeds of trust, which means you’ve been accepting money under the table to cancel deeds of trust or mortgages.” He asked if Atkinson had anything to add to the charges.
“I did notice that her husband is driving a new Ford,” he said.
“It’s a Dodge,” Parks quickly corrected.
Bail was set and paid, and Parks emerged a free woman.
Though the event was lighthearted and fun-spirited, Wall stressed the importance of supporting the local schools.
“The overwhelming majority of our children — around 95 percent — are receiving their education from the public school system, so this is where our citizens are coming from,” he said. “It’s important to give our students, our children and even our grandchildren all the resources we can in order to give them the best education possible.”
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.