Judge mulling release of Harnett investigation files after allegations of abuse

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Both sides argued in court Monday.

Superior County Judge Gale Adams declined Monday to make an immediate decision on case files held by Harnett County District Attorney Vernon Stewart's office.

Adams told lawyers she needs to read through the hundreds of pages of material before ruling.

The family of John Livingston II is asking for the case files related to allegations of abuse by Harnett County deputies and detention officers as it pursues a lawsuit against the department.

"There's a crisis in Harnett County, a law enforcement crisis. These citizens are not being protected. So that's why we're here," explained Livingston family friend Maria Arias.


Livingston, 33, was shot to death last November on his West Everett Drive front porch during a fight with two Harnett County deputies who were reportedly looking for another man who had previously resided in the home.


When Livingston told the deputies the man did not live there, and they could not come in the home without a search warrant, authorities kicked in the front door and the fight ensued.

A Harnett County grand jury heard the case in April and declined to indict Deputy Nicholas Kehagias. He could have faced second-degree murder charges.

Now, Livingston's family wants to know more about how the incident was investigated.

"Information has been released by law enforcement about their investigation that disparaged John Livingston," said Livingston family attorney Robert Zaytoun. "We want to see what was cherry picked from those records and what's really in there. What's the truth of their investigation."

But Stewart's lawyer told the judge there is sensitive information in the files that could compromise justice for others if made public.

"It'll be on TV! It'll be on social media. It'll be everywhere, without Mr. Stewart having his final day in court," said attorney Ed Bain.

"What are they hiding? Why do they not want this information released? Are they hiding something? Who's got the clean hands here?" Zaytoun countered.

Livingston's family says the more light must be shined on the case.

"And the only way we're gonna get change in Harnett County, and stop people from being brutally hurt or killed, is by allowing the truth to come out," said Arias.

The Charlotte FBI Field Office, Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, and the US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina have opened an investigation to determine if any violations of federal law occurred surrounding Livingston's death.

Kehagias resigned from the department in June blaming an "environment created by a dishonest media" and saying he was putting fellow officers at risk by staying on.


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