Abril trial could be set next month

Published 11:16 am Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Special prosecutor James Coman with the N.C. Attorney General&squo;s Office filed a letter last month at the Polk County Clerk of Courts Office saying&bsp; April 10 should be the last administrative session needed for the case.

&dquo;We anticipate that this may be the last time that the matter will need to be set for an administrative session and that we can agree on a trial date during the April 10, 2008 administrative session,&dquo; Coman&squo;s letter says.

Abril&squo;s attorney Stephen Lindsay says he&squo;s also aiming to set a trial date next month. It&squo;s unclear when the trial may be held, but it appears the earliest possible date may be in June.

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It&squo;s been about a year and a half since Abril was indicted on rape charges, and some in the community have questioned why a trial has not yet been set.

Abril said recently that the delays are not his fault.

&dquo;I&squo;m upset (it&squo;s taking so long),&dquo; Abril says. &dquo;It&squo;s bad for my family and my kids. I&squo;m not delaying. I&squo;m the one who asked for a speedy trial.&dquo;

But state officials say it is Abril&squo;s attorney who has been tied up with other cases.

Sheriff Abril has been in office for a year and three months. Three months prior to winning the election he was indicted and charged with five counts of statutory rape of a child and one count of sexual offense on a child. The alleged victims were ages 10 and 11 at the time in the late 1980s while Abril was off duty as a Columbus police officer.

Abril made a motion on Sept. 7, 2006 for a speedy trial in hopes that the trial could be over before the 2006 election when he was running against incumbent Sheriff David Satterfield.&bsp; Abril won despite being able to resolve the issue before the election. Many of his supporters claimed that the charges against Abril were politically motivated.

Abril&squo;s first two attorneys, Mark Feagan and Christopher Stepp, withdrew and were relieved as counsel last August. Abril then hired attorney Lindsay. Lindsay is also representing former Buncombe County Sheriff Bobby Medford, who is currently facing charges of taking money to help protect an illegal video poker ring. That federal trial is ahead of Abril&squo;s, and Lindsay was recently granted a 30-day extension in that case, now set for April 29.

&dquo;Federal cases do take priority and Coman and I have been working to accommodate both the federal court and Abril,&dquo; Lindsay said.

Lindsay said he and Coman are going to work out a date for Abril&squo;s trial that will allow him time to finish the Medford case and prepare for Abril&squo;s case. The earliest Abril&squo;s trial could be set will most likely be sometime in June since the Medford case is not expected to be done until mid-May.

Both the defendant and the state have repeatedly said they want a speedy trial. Special prosecutor Coman has consistently said in court that the state is ready to proceed. Both attorneys at one time last year said they wanted to try the case this month.

&dquo;We certainly want a fair and speedy trial in this matter,&dquo; says Noelle Talley, Public Information Officer with the N.C. Department of Justice. &dquo;Our understanding is that the defendant&squo;s current attorney will not be available until some time in April because he is involved in a federal trial on another case.&dquo;

Abril said from the time he was indicted that the charges were politically motivated and that he wanted a speedy trial. The state and one judge in the case have said the charges were not politically motivated and followed a five month investigation into the case by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI).

Polk residents have often
questioned both the timing of the indictments and the length of time taken so far to set a trial. The trial, when set, will most likely be a special trial just to hear the Abril case and will be held in Polk County. The state motioned to change venues last year, but a judge decided to leave it in Polk.