Albemarle Police, DA’s office work together to convict sex offender
Published 4:09 pm Tuesday, November 14, 2023
The relationship between a law enforcement agency and a district attorney’s office is important in terms of enforcing the law.
In one recent case, the Albemarle Police Deparment, The Butterfly House and District Attorney T. Lynn Clodfelter and his office combined forces to put away an admitted habitual felon.
Derrick Lindsey was found guilty on four counts, including a B1 felony for first degree statutory sexual offense, two C class felonies for two separate instances of indecent liberties with a child and second degree trespassing.
Lindsey was sentenced to between 420 and 560 months for the B1 and one of the indecent liberties charges, and between 110 and 192 months for the other indecent liberties charge and habitual felon status.
The incidents happened July 8, 2020, to two minors. Sgt. Bryan Lear of the Albemarle Police Department said the department received a call from Atrium Stanly that evening. Detective Jonathan Lowder, Lear said, was the person who issued the charges.
Lear said one of his primary jobs with APD at the time was working on sexual assault cases.
“This is my field of expertise,” Lear said.
Lear said Lowder met with a sexual assault nurse at the hospital, but returned when he was notified an individual was at the police station “wanting to clear his name.”
At that point, Lear said, Lindsey was at the station voluntarily, where Lowder videoed a statement from the suspect.
Because he was there voluntarily, Lindsey had not been given any Miranda warning. The warning states a suspect has the right to remain silent, and if the suspect gives up that right, anything they say may be used in court. Suspects also would be notified they have a right to speak with an attorney before questioning, and one would be provided if the suspect can not afford it.
Clodfelter said Lindsey was notified multiple times that he was speaking to them of his own free will and was free to leave at any time.
The next day, Lear said he and other APD detectives discussed the case, noting the victims were 5 and 6 years old at the time of the incidents.
Clodfelter said officers spoke with the parents of both children that night. Lear said detectives responded thereafter.
Lear noted he is the only officer with APD who has specialized training to interview children.
Every child who is a victim of a crime, he said, is referred to the Butterfly House in Albemarle, a child advocacy center. Clodfelter noted Stanly was fortunate to have the Butterfly House because other counties do not have a similar group.
“The fact that (Butterfly House) just happens to be across the street from the hospital is fortunate,” Clodfelter said.
The usual procedure for examining children, Lear said, is for victims to speak with a forensic nurse while law enforcement officials watch in another room on closed circuit TV.
According to Lear, in this case, both juveniles gave “vivid descriptions” of the suspect, Lindsey, including the clothing he was wearing, which he also wore when interviewed at the police station.
Both abuse survivors, Lear said, went to their parents and recounted the same story. The parents later testified in court against the defendant regarding those conversations.
Lear said the next step, because of the witness statements, the matching description and the suspect admitting he was in the area at the time of the incidents, gave detectives enough probable cause to go before a magistrate to get arrest warrants.
When the case went to trial, Clodfelter and assistant DA Virginia Ann Sullivan prosecuted the defendant.
One interesting point of the trial, Clodfelter said, was the defendant did not want the assistance of counsel.
“He rejected the court’s numerous offers to get him an attorney,” Clodfelter said.
Lindsey did have stand-by counsel, which Clodfelter said “is generally limited to inquiries by the defendant as to some questions they may have as the case is going along.”
Clodfelter said a district attorney may file, in cases of children being victims of sexual offense, a motion to sequester the child from the defendant “so as to help avoid further trauma.”
When a child would appear in a case who had been sequestered, the only people they would be in the presence of at trial would be the prosecutor, the judge, defense counsel and possibly the jury, but not the defendant.
“The theory being the child would be less traumatized and more forthcoming with information,” Clodfelter said.
With the defendant representing himself in court as a pro se litigant, Clodfelter and his staff withdrew the motion, concerned the defendant would use it as the basis for an appeal. The basis would be he would not have had the opportunity to confront his accusers.
Clodfelter said the children, while being obviously scared and uncomfortable, “did a really good job answering the questions.”
Along with testifying, the jury watched a video of the children being interviewed at the Butterfly House.
Those videos, Lear said, are helpful considering the time between the filing of charges and the beginning of a trial, which in this case was delayed about three years.
Lear said the biggest thing in preparing children for court is to not re-traumatize them.
“They’ve already been through the worst thing that probably will ever happen to them in their lives,” Lear said.
He said the job of law enforcement and the judicial system “is to try our best to keep them from never seeing the person that harmed them ever again.”
Lear said with sex offenders often re-offending frequently, his thought was, “I do not want this to ever happen to another 5- or 6-year-old.”
Building a rapport of trust between himself and a victim, Lear said, is something he has to do in a very short time.
“If they get on the stand, look at the worst thing that’s ever happened to them, 90% of the time they are going to lock up and you’ve lost your case,” Lear said.
With Lindsey, acting as his own attorney, the defendant did have the opportunity to cross-examine the victims.
Lear said that was one of his biggest fears of the case, trying to prevent the defendant from intimidating the children while they were on the stand.
Clodfelter said “he did not ask one of the victims questions.”
The defendant did not testify on his own behalf, although he did give a lengthy closing statement. According to Clodfelter, the jury was out about three hours before coming back with guilty verdicts.
Both the APD detective and the district attorney agreed having a strong working relationship between the two departments is important in getting convictions.
“It is. Law enforcement has to be able to understand what information and evidence we will need to present to a jury,” Clodfelter said.
Lear, who has been in law enforcement for 23 years, said it has almost been like going to law school without actually going, in terms of working with the DA’s office.
“We’re very fortunate, I believe, because we are such a small town, we have close, personal connections between the two departments,” Lear said.
“It takes more than just enough evidence to charge someone. We have to have sufficient evidence to convict them of the charge. That standard is much higher,” Clodfelter added. “You have to have law enforcement officers who have the training and the experience to understand that just bringing a charge against somebody is only the first step in the investigation.”
Clodfelter said he feels Stanly is fortunate to have many experienced officers, but “we need to keep these officers. I can’t speak for APD, but I see many times our experienced officers leave to go to other places because the pay is better.”