Graham, NC -- The county attorney sent a response to the US Department of Justice on Tuesday, adding his voice to the conversation about whether Sheriff Terry Johnson discriminates against Latinos and Spanish-speakers.
The letter to Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez was dated Oct. 1, and county attorney Clyde Albright said he drafted it after receiving direction from county commissioners during Monday night's meeting.
In his letter, Albright says that many of the accusations the DOJ made when it released its findings from a two-year investigation into the sheriff's department and policies "are over-broad, potentially over-reaching and statistically incorrect." Albright also requested the DOJ turn over its evidence against the sheriff and present its "findings to [Albright] and other interested stakeholders."
On Sept. 18, the DOJ released the findings of its investigation as it dismissed a lawsuit against the sheriff. Federal attorneys had been seeking permission to interview current deputies without the county attorney present, but dropped the lawsuit days before it was due for a hearing before a federal judge. The investigative findings accuse Sheriff Johnson of profiling against Latinos, targeting Latino drivers for traffic stops and discriminating against Latinos in jail-booking practices.
The sheriff flatly denies the accusations and his personal attorney, Chuck Kitchen, has called them "gossip" and "innuendo." Kitchen sent his response to the DOJ last week.
Community group Fairness Alamance held a news conference Friday in which it underscored the accusations against the sheriff. Kitchen and Sheriff Johnson have accused Fairness Alamance, the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina and the DOJ of engaging in a smear campaign against the county's top cop.
The DOJ asked for specific changes in department policies, though the sheriff contends he has done nothing wrong and there is nothing to change. That could lead to the DOJ filing a lawsuit against the county. A spokesman for the DOJ wouldn't clarify Tuesday whether the department plans to take Albright up on his invitation or if it will take legal action.
WFMY News 2