Text messages focus of Durham police officer shooting trial

DURHAM (WTVD) -- On the fifth day of testimony in the trial of a Durham man accused of shooting a police officer during a 2012 altercation, the court focused on Carlos Riley's cell phone records, specifically text messages.

The defense also made another motion for a mistrial on the grounds that there was some information in one of Riley's text messages that wasn't supposed to be shown to the jury.

In one message he's advised by someone to remove his battery, delete all text messages and turn himself in.

Jurors got a chance to review the messages Friday morning as the defendant's relatives closely monitored the trial in Durham, according to family friends.

Carlos Riley Jr. is charged in connection with the shooting that left Durham officer Kelley Stewart wounded in the leg. Riley claims Stewart shot himself during a fight that started with a traffic stop.

Riley is the nephew of civil rights activist and attorney Walter Riley, a Durham native who participated in lunch counter sit-ins during the Civil Rights Movement. His son is Raymond Riley, a hip-hop artist best known as "Boots Riley."

Since the onset of the case, both men have voiced their concerns about the investigation and Riley's 10-year federal sentence on the charge of possession of a firearm by a felon. Riley pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by a felon in federal court in February 2014.

This week, "Boots Riley" took to Twitter to defend his cousin while observing the testimony of an apartment maintenance worker who found handcuffs, a backpack and clothing after the shooting incident.

"These items found after cops had searched there for hours, having the place roped off -- with only police access," Riley tweeted.

"Meaning, cops put them there," he added in another message.

Riley voiced his concerns again on social media after the jury would only briefly hear testimony from a passerby who'd discovered Stewart's cellphone.

"The cop's phone was getting texts about the incident, calling it 'an accident.' This proves cops knew that Stewart shot himself," Riley wrote.

Neither theory has yet to be argued by the defense in court as the prosecution continues to present its case against Riley.

Riley was indicted by a Durham County grand jury in early 2013 on several charges that stemmed from the December 18, 2012 traffic stop.

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Authorities have said around 10:20 a.m. on that day Officer Stewart stopped Riley, who was with two other men, near the Forest Point apartment complex on Forest Road near Guess Road and Broad Street. During a struggle, Stewart was shot in the leg.

RELATED: Two more arrested in connection with officer shooting

On Thursday, an intense debate over whether Stewart filed a worker's compensation claim delayed testimony. Defense attorney Alex Charns notified the judge about several motions he was filing, including a motion to dismiss the controversial case based on prosecutorial misconduct.

Charns filed a motion to dismiss on Wednesday as well. A state witness wasn't informed a certain topic was off-limits and the jury was exposed to information that should not have been disclosed.

Thursday, Charns said he had asked the state repeatedly to produce a copy of Stewart's worker's comp claim, questioning if one even existed. The judge granted both sides a recess to prepare their arguments on why, or why not, the claim should be admitted into the case.

The worker's comp claim is significant if Stewart initially reported his shooting as an "accident."

After an extended recess, the prosecutors told the judge that Stewart's comp claim was located. It will be sent electronically and sealed in an envelope for the judge's review. The judge will have to decide whether it'll be considered evidence.

Stewart is a Durham police investigator and has been on the force since 2007. He testified on Tuesday that during the stop a struggle ensued when Riley revved up his engine and started to drive away.

He told the court he was hanging on for his life when Riley then allegedly shot Stewart in the thigh with Stewart's gun and fled the scene.

A lawyer for Riley told ABC11 shortly after the incident that the police officer was dressed in plain clothes, was driving an unmarked vehicle, and shot himself in the leg during an altercation with Riley after trying to pull him over.

Authorities said Stewart's .45 caliber Smith and Wesson semi-automatic handgun was missing after the shooting. However, his badge, which had been missing, was recovered.

In court Monday during opening statements, Assistant District Attorney Stormy Ellis said evidence during the course of the trial would show that Stewart pulled over Riley's vehicle to give him a warning for "fishtailing down Forest Road."

Charns said when Stewart pulled Riley over he strayed from police department policy and didn't call the traffic stop in and that evidence would show that the year before the incident Stewart, who is black, stopped black motorists 76 percent of the time.

Charns went on to say that after Riley handed over his license and registration the investigator asked him to get out of the car and patted him down. After the frisk the officer then said allegedly wanted to search the car and when refused pulled out his gun.

RELATED: Man accused of shooting officer indicted

Riley Jr. originally faced six separate charges that included assault on a law enforcement officer with a deadly weapon, two counts of assault with a firearm on a law enforcement officer, assault on a law enforcement officer inflicting serious injury, robbery with a dangerous weapon, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and careless and reckless driving.

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