Washington’s attorney: Show me the evidence

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 31, 2005

The war of words over the disputed Greensboro mayor’s election is heating up again.

Raising the temperature this time is William M. Pompey, the Camden attorney representing Greensboro mayor J.B. Washington in the contest of Washington’s election by Vanessa Hill. In an interview with the Times Tuesday, Pompey noted that Hill’s original complaint against the election accuses unknown individuals of bribery and illegally voting, serious charges that Pompey says must be shown to have merit before the case proceeds.

“One thing is for sure,” he said. “If you say bribery has happened, that’s a pretty serious allegation. Before you do anything with that, you gotta show something…prove it or get out of here.”

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Pompey said the complaint’s lack of specifics and Hill’s party’s subsequent failure to provide them is the equivalent of a blanket accusation against anyone involved with the election.

“The complaint didn’t specify…there have been [no details] given since September 20, when she swore that this had happened,” Pompey said. “She’s telling everybody in Greensboro that they’re an illegal voter. That’s what she’s saying. She’s saying everybody, every election official, committed bribery. She’s accused the whole system. She’s said that all votes, including the ones for her, are illegal…it’s as wrong as it can be.”

“I don’t understand how you can file a complaint with such arrogance,” he added.

A copy of the original September 20 complaint by Hill shows that she did contest the election on the basis of illegal votes and “offers to bribe, bribery, intimidation, or other misconduct calculated to prevent a fair, free, and full exercise of the elective franchise.”

However, Hill attorney Walter Braswell of Birmingham says the original September complaint is irrelevant aside from establishing the date of Hill’s contest. A new, amended version of the complaint has since been submitted, and Braswell says that the issue currently being debated in the case–whether or not Hill’s party has the right to inspect the absentee ballots cast in the election–isn’t affected by the complaint at all.

“I don’t know anything about any bribery. I doubt you could ever get any evidence to prove it,” he said. “It’s not considered by the statute we’re applying.”

That statute is section 17-8-45, which states in part that “In all election contests other than political party primaries or run-offs, any person or candidate involved in the contest is entitled to make an examination of the ballots cast, given, or rejected in the election.”

Braswell, who points out the statute provides no pre-conditions of any sort before ballot inspection, adds that the original complaint was filed by Hill without the aid of counsel and that the amending of complaints is a common, easily explainable law practice.

“Let’s say I file a complaint based on a car wreck,” he said, “and find out later that the other driver was drunk. You’d have to amend it because you didn’t know that at the time.”

That would likely not satisfy Pompey, who said that the brief filed on Washington’s behalf in the case last Thursday made no changes to the arguments put forth during the case’s initial hearing March 4.

“We still think that [Hill] did not post bond in time and that she has not made a necessary case for her contest,” he said, referring to the issue of whether or not Hill posted a necessary security bond in time to proceed with her contest.

To Pompey, that Hill’s complaint is a sworn statement means that if she cannot produce any evidence to back her claims, she is guilty of a criminal act.

“Either she has evidence or she has committed a crime. It is a crime to make false accusations. You cannot abuse the process,” he said. “We just asked for the names. Name the people you’re talking about…This is a sworn complaint. This is not small-time stuff. Either she has evidence or she has committed sworn perjury. It looks like a crime to me.”