We are expecting word any day now from the Columbus County district attorney, as to what charges, if any, will come out of a shooting in Tabor City last week.
State Senator RC Soles said he shot a client of his who was trying to break into his home. Twenty-two-year-old Kyle Blackburn told our reporter he was leaving soles property when he was shot.
In the week since that shooting, news outlets locally and across the state have questioned whether District Attorney Rex Gore, a friend and long time political ally of Senator Soles, should recuse himself from this case and ask a special prosecutor to decide what charges are appropriate. Gore has told us he sees no conflict of interest.
We have researched the issue. Here are the criteria for requesting a special prosecutor under North Carolina law:
The General Statute reads, “although there is not always an actual conflict of interest in these cases, it is sometimes better from a ‘public perception’ standpoint to eliminate an appearance of conflict or some suggestion that the matter will not be handled properly. Having a separate independent prosecutorial agency assume responsibility for these types of cases is in the best interest of the proper administration of justice in assuring the public that the case will be handled properly and in the public’s best interest.”
The statute goes on to list examples of cases which fall into this category. One of those examples: “when a local attorney, law enforcement officer, court official, or other public official is investigated or charged, and the district attorney has a personal or professional relationship with that person such that his ability to be fair and impartial will be questioned.”
In this case, Senator Soles is a local attorney and a public official. Rex Gore has both a personal and professional relationship with Senator Soles that dates back more than 20 years. The two were linked together in a federal investigation back in the 1980’s, where prosecutors accused Soles of buying votes to help get Rex Gore elected. Those charges were eventually dropped.
So far, Mr. Gore says he has no intention of stepping aside.
The investigative report from the SBI is expected to be released this week.