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scuttlebutt

by Keith T. Barber and Jordan Green

Cunningham enters US Senate race

Cal Cunningham, a Lexington attorney, announced he will challenge Sen. Richard Burr of Winston-Salem in the 2010 midterm elections. Cunningham, a former state senator, officially announced his plans to vie for the Democratic party’s nomination on Monday with a press release and a videotaped statement posted on YouTube. Last month, Cunningham said he would not pursue the Democratic nomination, but changed his mind after receiving encouragement from friends, family and supporters. “I see a path to victory today that wasn’t there a month ago that justifies the sacrifices our family is about to make,” Cunningham said. A father of two, Cunningham received the Bronze Star while serving overseas as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. A captain and paratrooper in the US Army Reserves, Cunningham, 35, received the medal for “exceptionally meritorious service to the United States” as a JAG attorney. Cunningham said his campaign will focus on bringing jobs back to North Carolina. “We’ve got to work to restore innovation in our economy, invest in clean energy, while strengthening our public schools, community colleges and universities,” he said. Cunningham criticized Burr for his support of what he called the failed economic policies of former President Bush and for inaction during the financial meltdown last fall. “After15 years in Congress, Richard Burr has voted down the line to drive our country in the ditch,” Cunningham said. NC Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and Chapel Hill attorney Ken Lewis are the two other announced Democratic candidates in the race. — KTB

Judge throws out disinherited spouse’s lawsuit

Judge William Z. Wood dismissed a civil lawsuit filed by Wesley Foust- Graham (featured in a Nov. 11 YES! Weekly cover story) in Guilford County Superior Court on Monday. Foust- Graham brought the suit against her former lawyer, Norman Smith; another lawyer, Frank Johns; and Kelly Clark. Johns had represented Clark in a battle for the estate of her father, Greensboro landlord James L. Goodwin, who was known to his friends and family as Bill Goodwin. The jury trial in that case had resulted in the annulment of a marriage between Goodwin and Foust-Graham. Wood took about 30 minutes Monday to review motions by Foust- Graham, who represented herself, and three lawyers representing the defendants before calling the court back into session and ruling that Foust-Graham’s suit had exceeded a four-year statute of repose. Wood concluded that the clock started ticking on Aug. 23, 2005, the final day Smith was allowed to file a petition for discretionary review with the NC Supreme Court to appeal a Court of Appeals ruling. Foust-Graham argued that

the judge should extend her some latitude because she was a citizen representing herself and not a lawyer, and pleaded with him to listen to a 30-minute tape recording a conversation between herself and Bill Goodwin. Foust-Graham’s suit alleged that Smith withheld evidence from the court, that Johns “cruelly defamed” her with untrue accusations and that Clark “committed tortuous interference with the contractual relations of plaintiff and the late James L. Goodwin. Foust-Graham’s lawsuit contended that the three defendants wrongfully disinherited her from property and spousal rights to Goodwin’s estate, and that their actions damaged her personally and professionally. Foust-Graham’s lawsuit demanded a judgment against each defendant in the amount of $2 million. — JG

WSPD officers respond to city’s petition to release Silk Plant Forest report

Nine former and current Winston-Salem Police Department officers have filed a motion in Forsyth County Superior Court to block the release of the final report of the Silk Plant Forest Citizens Review Committee. On Nov. 27, lawyer Michael McGuinness filed a motion to dismiss on behalf of eight officers, including Richard E. “Ted” Best. In 2007, Best conducted an internal administrative review of police procedure in the 1995 Silk Plant Forest-Jill Marker assault case. City Manager Lee Garrity threw out the police department’s internal investigation after it was learned that Best had served as the supervisor of Donald R. Williams, the lead investigator in the case. Williams filed a letter with the court on Dec. 4 contesting release of personal information and records of his investigation. The officers’ motion comes in response to the city’s petition for the court to disclose confidential personnel information included in the committee’s final report. Police Chief Scott Cunningham said he fully supports the city council’s actions “to have the materials collected by the citizens committee reviewing the Silk Plant Forest case to be released to the public.” Cunningham also noted that everyone, including officers, are free to exercise their rights and “should not be criticized for that.” Garrity said he also strongly supports the city’s action to get the full report released. “The release of this information is essential to maintaining public confidence in the police department,” he said. — KTB

Judge turns down black officers in libel suit Superior Court Judge Edgar Gregory has ruled Greensboro police officers Julius Fulmore and Brian James cannot force the city of Greensboro to hand over a trove of audio recordings and transcripts of conversations held by Officer Scott Sanders and related administrative documents. Fulmore and James, both African-American officers were investigated by Sanders during the administration of former Chief David Wray, wanted access to the recordings and documents to use as possible evidence in their libel lawsuit against true-crime writer Jerry Bledsoe and the weekly newspaper The Rhinoceros Times.

Amiel Rossabi, the lawyer for the two black officers, said Gregory based his ruling on a finding that Rossabi did not show how the documents were relevant to the case. Another superior court judge, Vance B. Long, had previously ruled that Fulmore and James could not have access to Bledsoe’s notes and recordings. “Judge Long found that I didn’t need to see Jerry Bledsoe’s notes and recordings, and Judge Gregory found that I don’t need to see the [internal affairs] files because Bledsoe has stated under oath that he has provided to me everything that he’s based his stories on.” Rossabi said the case is still a long way away from trial. “I’m going to depose Bledsoe and depose The Rhino Times, and make sure their testimony is consistent with what’s been represented.” — JG

Simple living discussion hosted by Face to Face

Face to Face, a group that seeks to engage Greensboro young people in civic affairs, will host a conversation led by UNCG lecturer Charlie Headington at New Garden Friends Meeting House on Thursday at 6:30 on topic of “simple living in a complex age.” — JG

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