Wake County's top prosecutor faces fire from frustrated families over police accountability

Joel Brown Image
Friday, September 24, 2021
Community demands justice, accountability after wrongful drug charges
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In a meeting with the Wake County District Attorney, community members demanded justice for those wrongfully convicted.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman found herself in the hot seat, Thursday night, facing a crowd at a criminal justice forum at Chavis Community Center.

The crowd was filled with community members who have been personally or have family members impacted by Wake's criminal justice system. Many called it unfair and inequitable for people of color.

Robin Mills said it the loudest.

"We're out here pussy-footing around topics when the reality is it's real in the field right now," Mills said to Freeman at the forum. "I almost lost my son for a minimum of 7 and a half years for nothing!"

Freeman responded, "I respect very much what you have been through and I regret that."

Mills' son was one of the at least 15 Raleigh defendants wrongfully charged with trafficking heroin between December 2019 and May 2020. They sat in jail for months on high-dollar bonds. They were allegedly framed by a criminal informant who told Raleigh police detective Omar Abdullah that the men were drug dealers.

The problem: the drugs were fake. The CI was indicted last month for lying to police. But Mills and many in the room at Chavis demanded to know what about Detective Abdullah; where's the police accountability?

"When Officer Omar Abdullah met the CI years ago, the first time, it was because the dude sold him fake drugs," Mills said. "And if he got duped and fooled, what does that say for Raleigh PD?!"

Freeman answered, "Let me just say, first and foremost, that anybody wrongly charged is a nightmare for any prosecutor."

Detective Abdullah remains on leave from Raleigh Police Department. But Freeman declined to prosecute the officer who was once honored as Raleigh Police Employee of the Year.

"Just because we may not end up with sufficient evidence in a case to prosecute someone, it's not the same thing as me saying that everything was done the way it should have been," Freeman said.

Raleigh criminal justice reform activists Kerwin Pittman and Kimberly Muktarian sat on the panel as well.

"This is disgusting. This is disheartening," Pittman said about the fake drug cases and lack of police prosecution.

Muktarian added, "Our people are dying and you don't have enough resources or the heart to prosecute bad cops. But I would do it for free!"

Damon Chetson, who joined the panel and has plans to challenge Freeman in next year's district attorney election blamed bad policy in the prosecutor's office.

"This is the policy. It's one page," Chetson said. "Mecklenburg County has a 14-page policy that lays out when the prosecutors have to turn over evidence that the police have lied or behaved improperly."

A federal lawsuit was filed against Detective Abdullah, RPD and the City of Raleigh. It was filed by 12 of the defendants wrongfully jailed. That case is ongoing right now.

Tonight's forum was organized by Emancipate NC.