Killers on Gov's guest list

(WTVD)

December 17, 2009 2:00:47 PM PST
Just 24 hours after Governor Bev Perdue was railing in public about a court decision to release dangerous convicts, she threw a party at the executive mansion for 17 prison inmates and several of them are convicted killers.

ABC11 learned of the event from a tipster.

"Please investigate this Christmas party and let the public know what is going on," wrote the person in an e-mail.

Skip Stam is a Republican legislator who represents Wake County. He is also outraged.

"Apparently she forgets from day to day whether she's tough on crime or soft on crime," he said. "It just raises to me the irony of the situation of how she is posturing herself as this tough as nails on crime, when she's anything but tough on crime."

An ABC11 camera crew was outside the mansion and watched as Governor Perdue took pictures and mingled with prisoners attending the party. One was convicted killer Thomas Napier.

The I-Team obtained a list of prisoners at the party, which included Reginald Patterson, who is serving life in prison for murder. There were nine other convicted killers and four armed robbers -- a total of 17 prison inmates invited to the party, because they work at the governor's mansion.

The party was in contrast to what Perdue said 24 hours before: "I have never been this disgusted with the system in my life."

She was talking about how angry a judge made her feel when he decided two killers - sentenced to life in prison - should go free. Superior Court Judge Ripley Rand ordered that Alford Jones and Faye Brown be released from jail. The North Carolina Court of Appeals later issued a temporary stay, but that was lifted Thursday. The state now plans to appeal to the NC Supreme Court.

Jones and Brown are two of several dozen inmates sentenced to life in prison in the 1970s, but the courts have ruled that the law at that time meant a life sentence was 80 years, and the inmates say with time off for good behavior, they should be released.

Perdue has been very vocal about her opposition to free the inmates. Monday she told reporters she is "furious with Judge Rand's decision."

"How would you feel if you go home tonight and next door to you is the house where these folks are gonna be living?" she said. "How would you feel for your children? Is that the way we want to do things in North Carolina?"

Critics say the party at the mansion 24 hours later shows the Governor seems to have two opinions about criminals.

"What's surprising about it is that some of the same types of criminals who are under this little bit of supervision are the same one's that she's decrying will be released. It's the same level of offense, and yet she's appalled and outraged by the fact that they're going to be released," said Stam.

The Governor doesn't see any problem and tells ABC11 the party is a tradition that goes back to the 1980s. It's a reward for hard work done by the inmates as the mansion is opened to the public at the holidays.

"It's tradition. It's something I was handed that's been done since 1984 and perhaps before. It is what it is," said Perdue Thursday.

The Governor's office said the inmates who work at the mansion have been reviewed by the parole board and approved for work release. It says Perdue is in favor of supervised release - not outright freedom - for the dozens of inmates sentenced to life in the 1970s.

Taxpayer money was not used for the party. Funding comes from rental fees paid when the public rents the mansion for events.

When asked if the inmates might pose a danger to the governor, the Department of Correction said all inmates who work at the mansion have passed a psychological evaluation, have not committed a sex crime or pre-meditated murder.

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