‘Kind of …Victimizing the Person Twice’: North Carolina Town Planned to Honor Pastor As ‘Hero of the Year’ Until He Sued Them for the Wrongful Conviction That Landed Him In Prison for 8 Years.

Lawyers for a Southern pastor who filed a federal lawsuit against his North Carolina hometown say officials are retaliating against him because of the claim.

The town does not deny stopping certain tributes to the preacher but claims it’s just procedure and not out of spite.

The minister is suing the city after it shared that two officers on its force withheld evidence that could have spared him from spending eight years behind bars for a crime they knew he did not commit.

North Carolina Town Planned to Honor Pastor As 'Hero of the Year' Until He Sued Them for the Wrongful Conviction That Landed Him In Prison for 8 Years.
Darron Carmon (Photo: Darron Carmon/Facebook)

Before Pastor Darron Carmon, the spiritual leader and founder of Rebuild Christian Center Church, sued the town of Winterville, he had been heralded as a “hero of the year.” He had this distinction two years prior and was promised it for 2023. Unexpectedly, he was deselected, the News Observer reported.

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The revocation of the honor was not because he no longer served the community with excellence, did charitable and philanthropic works, and dedicated much of his life to serving others. It follows his filing of a claim that seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages based on the irreparable harm Officers Donnie Greene and Emmanuel Armaos caused to his life.

In 1993, Carmon, a 19-year-old preacher’s kid, was framed for a grocery store robbery.

Cashier Robert Thompson, then-45, called 911 around 9:30 p.m. on Oct. 29, 1993. He said the person who robbed the Fresh Way store where he worked for $282 was between 5 feet 6 inches to 5 feet 8 inches tall and Black.

Thompson was brought in by the police and identified Carmon from a collection of mugshots. His picture was included because he had been arrested once for a nonviolent offense for which was not convicted, the National Registry of Exonerations reports.

The two officers also took finger and palm prints, but none matched Carmon.

Knowing that the prints did not match the teen, the two officers failed to share that information with Carmon’s defense team. Instead, they took the evidence and locked it away in a locker for 28 years.

The police did not find the weapon used to commit the robbery or the money. Carmon was convicted in 1994 of robbery with a dangerous weapon.

Judge W. Russell Duke, who presided over the case, sentenced Carmon to 14 years to 40 years in prison. He was also ordered to pay $282 in restitution to the owners of the store and to pay his attorney fees of $550 for 11 hours of work.

Carmon was paroled in October 2001, but it took almost three decades for him to recover and be exonerated from his initial defense’s 11 hours of ineffective work.

In September 2022, after the discovery of the prints was released, a judge exonerated the almost 50-year-old, a ruling that opened the door for him to file a federal complaint.

On March 7, his legal team filed the complaint naming the town, Green, and Armaos as defendants.

Carmon believes the lawsuit turned the city against him, despite his work, which includes pastoring two churches in the community, opening the church’s doors to the city as a vaccination site, and founding several nonprofits that boast programs with 100 percent success rates.

On Friday, April 21, the clergyman was supposed to be celebrated by the town during the fifth annual Pastor Darron Antonio Carmon Day ceremony. However, officials did not host the observance for the first time since 2018, when a resolution was passed to name the fourth Saturday in April after him. This too was canceled because of the lawsuit.

“Winterville’s response right now is to not say anything, not talk to me,” Carmon said to The Reflector. “These are people who called me, talked to me. They wanted to use my church. You can Google that. We partnered with ECU, and the mayor wanted to use my church so they could vaccinate people during the pandemic.”

Now, no one has words for him.

“Their lack of recognition now is because of the lawsuit, and it’s kind of like victimizing the person twice. It’s one thing to run into someone’s car and damage their car. It’s another thing to drive off. Winterville is trying to drive off,” Carmon said.

Keen Lassiter, Winterville’s town attorney, did not deny that the city canceled the holiday. He says it is because of the outstanding lawsuit.

Both sides are trying to figure out their next move.

According to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Carmon’s case was picked for mediation. The move is for all parties involved in the case to resolve the lawsuit before going to court on March 31. The defendants are pushing against it and have filed a motion requesting the court give them up to May 5 for the town, Armaos, and Greene to respond to the lawsuit.

Carmon has contacted North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper to intervene in his case, hoping he would block the extension, which is believed to slow up the case.

“My goal is to, of course, get the governor’s attention. A lot of times a person in that position does not really pay attention to cases and situations to me, like they really should. I realize he has a plethora of things that he needs to get done, but this is important because there is a wrong that has been committed,” Carmon said on March 18.

Regardless of the governor’s attention, the extension does not look like it will go through. A filing filed on the same day of the ask states the extension does not comply with Chief Judge Philip Myers’ practice preferences of getting both sides to try to work things out before further litigation.

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