News Column

NASCAR's Mayfield Going to Trial

April 4, 2013

Sharon McBrayer, Hickory Daily Record, N.C.

The case in Catawba County against former NASCAR Driver Jeremy Mayfield looks like it's going to trial.

Superior Court Judge Richard Boner denied a motion Wednesday by Mayfield's attorneys to suppress the search warrant where detectives say they found items taken from different businesses.

Mayfield was in court and showed no emotion when the judge denied the motion.

Mayfield is charged with felony possession of methamphetamine, three counts of felony possession of stolen goods/property and felony obtaining property by false pretense. He also faces four felony larceny charges set to be heard in Caldwell County on April 15.

Mayfield's attorneys David Freedman and Jones Byrd argued the search warrant was based on the information police received from informant John Franklin, who had a criminal history, without corroboration that implicated Mayfield. Freedman argued the only thing the information from the informant did was show the informant was guilty of more crimes.

Franklin, 35, of Claremont and Allison Nixon, 22, of Conover, died in a crash on U.S. 321 in Granite Falls in September. The two died when their motorcycle, estimated to be traveling about 120 mph at the time of the accident, collided with a vehicle making a left turn from Glenn Ridge Drive.

According to the Highway Patrol, 7 1/2 grams of methamphetamine, $1,714 in cash and two weight scales were found in a concealed compartment on the motorcycle. A small amount of meth was also found on Nixon, who was the passenger of the motorcycle.

Prosecutor Kyle Smith called Catawba County Sheriff's Officer Lt. Aaron Turk to testify about information he received from Franklin. Turk testified that he was called to Franklin's home in October 2011, where officers were serving a search warrant on an unrelated matter. He said Franklin rode with him to the Sheriff's Office to talk about information he had on some break-ins.

Smith said nothing was offered or promised to Franklin for the information he provided investigators.

Smith questioned Turk about those break-ins and what information he received from Franklin and information he received from police in the areas where the break-ins occurred.

Turk said information Franklin gave implemented Mayfield in break-ins that happened at Fitz Motorsports in Mooresville, Lee Boy Inc., a warehouse in Lincolnton and a scrap metal business, where racing items were taken, including two surface plates, weight set, camera, metal and motor oil.

A search warrant had been signed Oct. 31, 2011 by Judge Robert Sumner, according to facts laid out in Boner's order on the motion.

Investigators conducted a search of Mayfield's property on Hudson Chapel Road in Catawba on Nov. 1. Law enforcement found 1.5 grams of methamphetamine in a safe in Mayfield's home, as well as sound equipment and electronics, Red Bull Racing signs, tools and furniture that were reported stolen, according to indictments. Mayfield is also accused of selling a metal surface plate to a company for $1,200.

After the motion hearing, Smith said a trial date will be set in about two weeks.

Freedman said the state's case against Mayfield is based on Franklin working with them while he was still involved in criminal activity.

Smith said prosecutors don't just have statements from Franklin to support their case against Mayfield but also have the work Turk did following up on the information as part of his investigation. He said Turk found nothing during the investigation to counter what Franklin told him.

Freedman said it's his contention that none of Franklin's statements made to police will ever be heard by a jury because he's dead. He said only the judge in the case will hear the statements Franklin made.

Back in January, it looked like the two sides were talking about a plea agreement.

Mayfield told the Record and other news outlets then that he would not accept a deal that would mean jail time.

According to a proposed plea agreement dated Oct. 9 and signed by Assistant DA Smith, there was no mention of jail time. The plea offer outlined the charges and what the DA was offering, which was:

--The defendant (Mayfield) would plead guilty to misdemeanor possession of stolen goods in Catawba County.

--The defendant would plead guilty to four counts of felony larceny in Caldwell County but those charges would be consolidated for judgment. If the defendant (Mayfield) returned all stolen property to DEA Ventures Inc., the four counts of felony larceny would be reduced to four counts of misdemeanor larceny.

--The defendant would plead guilty to possession of methamphetamine and would receive a conditional discharge as required by state general statute.

--The defendant will pay all restitution to the victims, including Larry Gant Inc. and Lee Boy Inc.

--The state would dismiss the remaining pending charges and not indict for any criminal conduct involving stolen property from Larry Gant Inc. and Lee Boy Inc.

--The plea offer had to be accepted or rejected by the second administrative session of court, with no response being considered a rejection by the defendant, the document says.

A letter dated Jan. 10 and signed by Smith was sent to Freedman, Mayfield attorney, advising there was "no plea offer at this time" in Mayfield's criminal matters.

On Wednesday, Gaither said the letter to Freedman about no plea offer meant 'get ready, we're going to trial.' He said it was not related to article in the Record.

Freedman said on Wednesday that it was his understanding at the time he received the letter from the DA's office about no plea offer that it was still on the table because there had been friendly communications about a plea.

In an e-mail to the Record Wednesday, Gaither said, "The prior plea offer extended to Jeremy Mayfield was rejected on its original terms. The District Attorney's Office and the defendant Jeremy Mayfield through his attorney have been unable to resolve the pending cases through Administrative Court. The District Attorney's Office is prepared to take these matters to trial."

Freedman said the defense has never formally rejected a plea offer.

Source: (c)2013 the Hickory Daily Record (Hickory, N.C.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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