Trooper fired after beating of Kyron Hinton during Raleigh arrest accepts plea deal, Hinton family in 'disbelief'

Tuesday, January 14, 2020
Hinton family in 'disbelief'
Hinton family in 'disbelief'

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The fired state trooper indicted for assault stemming from an arrest he made in Raleigh in April 2018 is now pleading guilty.

Michael Blake lost his job after video showed him and two other law enforcement officials beating Kyron Hinton with their flashlights.

After the April 2018 beating, Blake, the two other troopers and a Wake Sheriff's deputy were charged.

But when Hinton died months later, the district attorney feared convincing a jury to find law officers guilty of assault might be difficult without a star witness.

So instead she has targeted their law enforcement credentials.

The fired state trooper indicted for assault stemming from an arrest he made in Raleigh in April 2018 is now pleading guilty.

"We believe that is an appropriate outcome to this matter," said Lorrin Freeman, Wake County District Attorney.

Felony assault charges against Blake were dropped in exchange for a plea to two misdemeanor charges of willful failure to discharge his duty.

Blake was given a suspended sentence of 45 days. He will not serve any of those behind bars; he will have to complete 200 hours of community service.

He also cannot work again as a law enforcement officer.

Community activists who rallied around Hinton after the beating said they aren't surprised at Monday's outcome.

"They would have liked to have seen Blake get jail time but I was not expecting it," said Diana Powell with Justice Served NC.

Raleigh community activist Kerwin Pittman described the reaction from Hinton's family to the Blake plea deal as a "sense of disbelief and distrust."

Pittman, who was on the front lines of the intense public debate over police force and community relations following the Hinton beating, said when he called Hinton's family Monday morning they had no idea the plea deal was coming.

"She was expecting a phone call but it never came," Pittman said about his call with Shannon Utley, the mother of Hinton's daughter who has been tracking the cases against the officers closely. "So it was a shock and surprise. She hadn't heard at all. It was the first time she heard it so, she really said 'whoa!'"

While Utley and other members of Hinton's family were not available for interviews Monday, Pittman believed the case's conclusion does little to heal the wounds of distrust between many in the community and police.

"(Two misdemeanors) is not nearly enough. We know the intentions behind (Michael Blake's) actions were malicious because of the audio," Pittman said. "This right here only creates a deeper divide between the community and law enforcement."

In 2018, Blake's attorney denied that his client ever assaulted Hinton or obstructed justice.

"Trooper Blake will plead not guilty and continues to look forward to his day in court," Blake's attorney said in 2018.

But Monday, Blake's attorney, Joe Cheshire said, "He has acknowledged his wrongdoing in this. He will never again be able to do what he gave his life to do.

"This is a horribly sad case for everybody," Cheshire added. "It's been difficult for the district attorney's office. It's been difficult for us."

Hinton was hospitalized after the beating. Months later he received an $83,000 settlement from Wake County Sheriff's Office following an excessive force investigation.

Hinton died the day after he received that settlement. The medical examiner identified Hinton's cause of death as cocaine toxicity and homicide.

SEE ALSO: Kyron Hinton's family believes he was murdered for his settlement money from police beating

In addition to being charged with assault with a deadly weapon, Blake was later charged with obstruction of justice and conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice. Investigators said Blake gave misleading statements to State Highway Patrol about the arrest and his use of force.

RELATED: Body cam video released showing confrontation between law enforcement and Raleigh man

NCHP dashcam from April 5th