Boston fights charges

Published 2:54 pm Thursday, August 7, 2008

By Staff
Accused of taking money that should have gone to schools
Staff Writer
A judge heard testimony Wednesday that Joe and Mazel Boston hoodwinked the Beaufort County school system and took back forfeited bonds they shouldn’t have taken.
The judge also heard a rebuttal from the Bostons’ attorney, who attacked the credibility of a key witness and argued a computer system had confused his client.
The case was heard by a retired judge because the case hinges on conduct within the Beaufort County Courthouse involving people who are courthouse fixtures.
The Bostons’ attorney, Calvin King, tried to subpoena members of the Beaufort County Board of Education and Beaufort County Schools Superintendent Jeff Moss in order to show that Joe Boston is being persecuted by the school system for speaking out about its minority-hiring practices.
Rod Malone, who represented the school board in the matter, argued that there were several things wrong with the subpoenas, including that they were “oppressive,” a legal term meaning that it asked too much of the people being called to court.
King argued the subpoenas weren’t oppressive.
The judge sided with the schools and quashed the motion.
Malone tried to prove the Bostons deliberately didn’t inform Kim Edwards, the school board’s usual lawyer, they were asking for bond money back in cases where defendants never showed up for court appearances.
Ordinarily, a defendant pays a bondsman a percentage of the total bond, and the bondsman guarantees the rest to the court. If a defendant doesn’t show up for court, the bondsman is responsible for paying the entire bond. Such bond money, by law, is given to the appropriate school system.
That money is given back to the bondsman if he or she returns the defendant to the court or if he or she can prove any of a set list of other circumstances. But the school system has the chance to object to the repayment.
At Malone’s prompting, Edwards testified that she found hundreds of cases in which the school system wasn’t notified the Bostons wanted their money back. If the school system doesn’t object within 10 days, the bondsman’s request is automatically granted.
Edwards testified she only took the Bostons to court because of the more than 100 cases in which she believed the reasons they gave to get the money back were false. The Bostons’ requests in those cases weren’t backed up with documents as they’re supposed to be, Edwards said.
More than 80 of the cases, which involve Beaufort County District Court cases, were at issue Wednesday.
A number of other cases involving Beaufort County Superior Court cases will be heard later. The N.C. Division of Insurance did confirm that it is investigating the Bostons, but it declined further comment.
King argued that some of the filings were mistakes at worst, and certainly not fraud.
He showed the judge computer printouts of the cases, which he said Joe Boston uses to determine the status of each case. King argued that a two-letter abbreviation confused his client into thinking he had a right to get his money back.
Malone argued the abbreviation is standard and shouldn’t have confused a veteran of the legal system like Joe Boston.
King also questioned Edwards on how frequently she checks her mailbox at the courthouse and others who check it.
He emphasized that Edwards couldn’t testify that the motions were never put into her box because she doesn’t watch it all the time. Edwards testified that after March 2007, she did not find any motions from Boston in the box.
The Bostons’ attorney also attacked Edwards’ credibility as a witness.
He had her read from a letter she had written to King, in which she wrote that District Attorney Seth Edwards, who is her husband, checked her box for her “almost every day.”
In an affidavit, a member of the district attorney’s staff wrote that she frequently checks Kim Edwards’ courthouse box. Kim Edwards testified that when she wrote the letter she meant her husband or people working for him check her box.
The letter was about a dispute over a filing dated March 19 that King insisted he had put in her box.
Edwards testified that her husband had noted it wasn’t in the box the day before she found it on March 28. King argued this meant Kim Edwards hadn’t personally checked the box between March 19 and March 28. Edwards said she had and that she checks her box at least once every week. She said her husband’s information that the paper still wasn’t in the box on March 27 simply seemed more interesting.
In the letter she also wrote: “So please, feel free to call Seth a liar to his face the next time you see him.”
After Edwards stepped down, King threatened to ask the judge if he could treat her as a hostile witness.
King’s last line of argument against Edwards’ credibility was a hearing on a separate bond issue scheduled for Monday.
He said that Boston waited in court all day for Edwards. She said a clerk told her that the judge had added the issue to Wednesday’s hearing because Boston wasn’t at the courtroom.
The clerk was called, and she testified that she didn’t tell Edwards that Boston wasn’t in the courtroom, but that she did tell Edwards that the issue was rescheduled because “one of the parties” wasn’t present.
The judge adjourned court without making a ruling. He should release a final decision within the next two weeks.