Turner Enters Plea in Assault on Handicap Person
Elton Turner finally had his day in court this week, pleading guilty and accepting a suspended sentence without actually admitting guilt in the assault of a handicapped person.
In May 2009, a Moore County grand jury indicted Turner, a well-known critic of the Moore County Board of Commissioners, on rape and assault charges. Sheriff's deputies had arrested Turner and charged him with two counts of second-degree rape and two counts of assault on a handicapped person.
On Tuesday, Turner appeared with his attorney, Bruce Cunningham, of Southern Pines, to enter an Alford plea to lesser charges. Senior Resident Superior Court Judge James M. Webb accepted the plea pursuant to an agreement made between Cunningham and Assistant District Attorney Warren McSweeney.
Turner, 78, of Vass, pleaded guilty to one count each of second-degree kidnapping and assault on a handicapped person, District Attorney Maureen Krueger's office later said in a press release. The charges stemmed from an incident that occurred about March 31, 2006, when Turner assaulted a female at his residence who was paralyzed on the right side of her body and able to communicate through the use of sign language, Krueger said in the release.
According to the district attorney's office, the victim would have faced a huge issue as to whether or not - given her condition - she could have testified had the case gone to trial. There was no physical evidence in the case.
"Both the assistant district attorney and I expressed to the court that this was a fair resolution of the case," Cunningham said afterward in a telephone interview. "Judge Webb said that if this had gone to trial it would have been a difficult experience for both parties."
Webb consolidated the two charges and sentenced Turner to 25 to 39 months in prison, but suspended that sentence for three years. He sentenced Turner to pay a $1,000 fine, perform 100 hours of community service, be subject to warrantless searches and random drug screens, and have no contact with the victim or her family.
His probation officer has the discretion to place him on electronic house arrest and a curfew, and have him obtain any physical or mental health examinations.
According to McSweeney, the victim and her family have since moved away from Moore County and gave their approval to the plea arrangement. Under the deal, Turner would enter an Alford plea, pleading guilty but not admitting actual guilt.
Turner has always insisted the accusations by his former wife were false. During a Civil District Court hearing in 2009 on his then-wife Evelyn's request for a domestic protection order, he had emphatically denied the charges against him. He said the accusations were false, that he didn't do what he'd been accused of doing.
"It's hell to defend yourself against lies," he said.
His Alford plea is treated just the same as any other guilty plea, but means he considered pleading guilty to be in his own best interest while not admitting actual guilt.
Turner's former wife doesn't see it that way.
"This monster now - that has been free for over three years - was able to deceive ... all of Moore County," she said in an email after the sentence. "I know ... so many others thought we were lying, but when a person has the truth in their hearts, God will punish those that openly and willingly lie as Mr. Turner did for so long."
Elton Turner remarried following their divorce. On Monday, he and his new wife, Luby, were sitting in court holding hands waiting for his case to come up. The rape case against the well-known "gadfly" had been pending for some time. In 2007, The Pilot designated Turner and three others - calling them "the Gadflies" - as Newsmakers of the Year because they were involved in the many controversies that had convulsed the county and its communities.
Details of the allegations against Turner appear in statements made by his then-wife, Evelyn, in 2009 to support her civil complaint and motion for a domestic violence protective order against him.
According to court documents, she claimed Turner admitted to two sexual encounters with the handicapped victim he was accused of assaulting.
She had reported the alleged 2006 incidents in April 2009. Capt. Bill Mackey, of the Moore County Sheriff's Office, led the investigation and was in court Tuesday.
Contact John Chappell at (910) 783-5841 or by email at email@example.com.
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