Judge criticized for giving away UNC tickets

Person County Courthouse
October 28, 2011 2:59:39 PM PDT
The courtroom antics of a Person County judge are drawing criticism following his decision to give away tickets to a UNC game.

"To me, court is very serious," said Person County resident Ollie Jeffers.

Jeffers was shocked when the judge turned court time into fun time.

"He basically said 'all Carolina fans just stay seated and everybody else can take a recess,'" Jeffers recalled. "And he said, 'I have tickets I'm going to give away.'"

Jeffers says during a courtroom break, District Court Judge Mike Gentry held a lottery of sorts, eventually awarding the Carolina tickets to a defendant in a domestic violence case.

"The seriousness of it is violators are there for punishment, not to be awarded for wrongdoing," he added. "It bothered me to know we're giving away gifts to people who violate other people."

ABC11 was told Gentry, a Carolina Law School alumnus, is a longtime Rams Club member.

Judge Gentry declined ABC11's request for an interview, but other court officials ABC11 talked to say he has a history of generosity and that the ticket giveaway was meant in good fun.

Judges are required to uphold the code of judicial conduct, including maintaining integrity in the courtroom and avoiding impropriety in all activities.

In fact, more than a dozen judges have been publically reprimanded in recent years for violating the rules.

ABC11 contacted the Judicial Standards Commission to find out if Gentry was out of order.

A spokesperson said, "Because complaints are confidential, we can neither confirm nor deny a complaint has been has been filed. We cannot comment in the event the situation is under investigation."

Jeffers hopes so and questions the judge's well intentioned decision.

"Not the right place, not the right place," he said. "The court is not to be mocked. That is your right to have extra tickets but there are lots of charities you can give them to -- law enforcement who risk their lives day and night."

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