Rock Hill, Fort Mill, York SC Accidents and Injuries Legal Blog

Monday, March 12, 2012

Moped Crash


Victim in deadly York Co. moped crash identified



The victim of a York County moped crash from late last month who died in a Charlotte hospital recently has been identified.

Wilbert Lemaire, 56, of Charlotte died at Presbyterian Healthcare in Charlotte on Thursday as a result of the crash, officials say.

The crash occurred on Feb. 25 at 3 p.m., said Lance Cpl. Billy Elder.

Lemaire was riding his 2009 Piag moped down S.C. Highway 557, about two miles north of Clover, when he lost control and spilled into the roadway, Elder said. He was air-lifted to the hospital.

Lemaire was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash.

There have been three fatal accidents on Highway 557 since Dec. 2010.

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Dog Attack


Smyrna woman: Dog attacked son, killed pet goat



A Smyrna woman says a neighbor's dog tried to attack her son and killed her pet goat on Tuesday.

When deputies arrived at the Canaan Church Road home Tuesday evening, the 31-year-old woman said when she got home she noticed the dog in the yard, according to a York County Sheriff's Office report.

The woman's son went to check on their pet goat, which was dead. She said it's the second time the dog has attacked the goat.

The neighbor had threatened in the past to shoot anyone who interfered with his dog, the report states.

The woman called animal control, but they told her to file a police report, the report states. Deputies could see the dog on the property when they arrived, but didn't see where it went. The woman gave them the name of the neighbor she believes owns the dog.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

6 Car Accident


6-vehicle wreck cleared on I-77


Authorities have cleared all vehicles off the travel lanes of Interstate 77 near Charlotte's uptown, but traffic on the southbound side remains slow at 9 a.m.

At least six vehicles were involved in a wreck about 7:20 a.m. on southbound I-77 near Remount Road. Some injuries were involved, but none were serious, according to radio reports.

However, the wreck blocked the left travel lane, where several vehicles were disabled. And other vehicles parked on the right shoulder. That allowed southbound traffic only two travel lanes -- and only one lane at times during the cleanup.

At the height of the snarl, the traffic was backed up nearly 9 miles, past Sunset Road. It created a very slow morning commute for many motorists headed to Charlotte from the north side.

Motorists can expect traffic to resume a normal speed before 9:30 a.m.

Otherwise, there were no major problems on Charlotte-area roadways at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Sheriff Error


York sheriff: Inmate's release was 'human error that we regret'

$5,000 reward for tip that leads to killer



A recordkeeping error led staff at the York County Detention Center to release a convicted murderer by mistake Monday afternoon, authorities said Wednesday.

"We made a mistake and it was a human error that we regret - we regret more than anybody would ever know," York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant said Wednesday afternoon outside the Moss Justice Center.

Thomas Aaron Whitlock, 31, was released from the jail at about 3 p.m. Monday and had not been found by Wednesday night. He was serving a 14-year prison term in North Carolina for the shooting death of a Charlotte man.

The Sheriff's Office is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to his capture.

Whitlock had been in the York County jail since Feb. 8, awaiting a hearing on a pending drug possession charge.

He was mistakenly released, Bryant said, because his file lacked information indicating that he was due back in North Carolina to finish serving his sentence for murder.

The sheriff tied the misstep to the point at which Whitlock entered the York County system, but he did not go into detail about procedures.

The sheriff stressed that he was not suggesting the court made an error.

"The mistake was made because there was no documentation when he was placed in our facility to indicate that he would be returned back to the state of North Carolina," he said.

At Monday's hearing, Whitlock pleaded guilty in exchange for a sentence that matched the 19 days he had already served in the York County Detention Center.

Following that hearing, Bryant said, Whitlock was taken to the jail with paperwork "sent down from the courts" indicating his case had ended. With that paperwork in hand, and without the knowledge that Whitlock was serving a sentence in North Carolina, detention officers released him, Bryant said.

A court document, which indicated that Whitlock completed his sentence for the drug charge, did not say he should be returned to North Carolina - nor should it have - said 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett.

The "mechanics" of how a defendant moves from one jurisdiction's custody to another lies "outside the purview of the court," he said.

Authorities are conducting an internal investigation to determine what happened and will release details later, Bryant said.

"We will hold accountable those who made the mistake," he said.

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Thursday, March 1, 2012



2 lawsuits filed over alleged Clover High football hazings



After several Clover High School junior varsity football players were bullied, beaten and hazed by older players in a locker room, school employees helped the attackers cover up what happened, according to lawsuits filed by two of the victims' families.

The assaults were part of "a long tradition of upperclassmen hazing younger members of the varsity and junior varsity football team," the suits say.

Rather than follow the law and immediately involve police, school employees investigated on their own, says the lawsuit, filed by Lexington attorney Richard Breibart.

Statements by upperclassmen during that investigation corroborated the victims' accusations, according to the suits. But when talking to sheriff's investigators, the upperclassmen changed their accounts "to lessen their involvement and minimize the extent of the incident."

"Defendants engaged in a massive cover-up to conceal the true events that occurred," the suits allege. They add "the school district and school employees 'coached' the upperclassmen and other students to downplay or deny the incident."

The lawsuits do not identify which defendants were allegedly involved in covering up the events.

Clover schools spokesman Mychal Frost declined to comment on the suits.

The suits, filed in federal civil court Wednesday, add a new twist to a controversial case that gripped Clover's school community last fall, when 13 players were suspended amid allegations that three players - ages 14, 15, and 17 - were hazed.

The incidents took place on three separate days in September at the end of the school day in the varsity football locker room before practice.

When the York County Sheriff's Office began investigating on Oct. 6, school leaders said they heard rumors that at least one student was sexually assaulted with a broom.

On Nov. 3, after the investigation, Solicitor Kevin Brackett and York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant dismissed the allegations as mere "horse play."

Brackett later told The Herald that what happened in the locker room wasn't clear.

"What exactly was done with (the broom) couldn't be established beyond a reasonable doubt," he said.

"It was not enough to justify going with charges.

"The clear impression we were left with is it was horsing around."

The families of two of the victims - the 14-year-old and the 17-year-old - are suing more than 20 defendants, including all seven school board members, Superintendent Marc Sosne, Clover High Principal Mark Hopkins, head football coach John Devine and several alleged student attackers.

The victims accuse the school district of gross negligence, civil conspiracy, violating the teens' constitutional rights and the Safe Schools Climate Act, and intentionally inflicting emotional distress.

They're suing the alleged attackers for negligence, assault and battery.

The victims' parents, identified as John and Rosetta McCrorey and Yelanda McCray, seek a jury trial. They say their children have suffered physical, emotional and psychological pain as well as fright, shock and "loss of enjoyment of life."

McCray's suit says varsity players restrained her 17-year-old son on Sept. 21, pulled down his pants "and attempted to, and in fact did, physically assault and batter (him) with a broom stick."

Classmates relentless taunts and teasing the following weeks traumatized him to the point he transferred schools, the suit says.

After the criminal investigation last year, Brackett, the 16th Circuit solicitor, declined to file charges, saying the victim's credibility influenced his decision.

The 17-year-old initially told detectives he was outside the varsity football locker room drinking Gatorade when several players grabbed him, forced him into the locker room, and tried to sexually assault him with a broom, according to York County Sheriff's Office investigation records.

Detectives, however, couldn't find witnesses to corroborate his account.

And in a follow-up interview, the student changed his story to say he was already in the locker room when players grabbed him, according to the records.

The McCroreys' suit says their 14-year-old son was grabbed by older players on Sept. 30 and carried into the locker room.

Sheriff's investigation records obtained by The Herald show that the 14-year-old told investigators the incident started when a varsity player snatched his book bag that afternoon while a substitute teacher was in charge of coach Devine's weightlifting class.

As the 14-year-old chased the student to get the bag back, players picked him up and carried him down the stairs to the varsity locker room.

They carried him to the shower and dropped him on the floor. The freshman said he covered his face and head as students punched and kicked him.

"Someone was pulling on my pants, but I held them up," he told detectives.

They continued until someone yelled, "Coach is coming."

Witness accounts to investigators about what happened that day varied.

One witness said he saw players carry the freshman into the shower and drop him, but not hit him.

Another player said the students who grabbed the underclassmen were just giving him "little love taps."

Another student said he saw "a bunch of people bullying" the 14-year-old.

The varsity player identified as the instigator in the incident told investigators that other students picked the freshman up then dropped him.

Of the three incidents, Brackett, the solicitor, has said the 14-year-old's was the only one in which he believed someone could have been charged.

But Brackett said he didn't because the student told investigators he didn't want to press charges.

"If he wanted to press charges, we probably would have," Brackett told the Herald in December.

"In a case like this, where there are allegations of simple assault with only one victim ... I'm not going to force that guy to go to court."

Brackett on Wednesday stood by his decision, but declined to discuss the lawsuits.

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