APD officers testify

Published 9:21 am Saturday, May 23, 2009

WINTON – First-hand accounts of the early morning hours of Jan. 14 were provided by two Ahoskie Police officers here Thursday in Hertford County Superior Court, the scene of an administrative hearing to determine the career fate of local Magistrate Leonard J. Mobley Jr.

Mobley, who on Friday learned that Judge Robert Hobgood deemed his actions as “willful misconduct” and therefore removed the 21-year judicial official from office, stood accused of striking Jerome Cross twice in the face as Cross was being booked at the Ahoskie Police Department (APD) on a trespassing charge that occurred Jan. 14.

At the center of the testimony was APD Officer Chad Wheeler who made the arrest and was in the booking area at the time Mobley allegedly struck Cross.

Wheeler testified to those facts, saying he was dispatched twice to 304 West Church Street (a residence rented by Peggy Pressley, Cross’ ex-girlfriend and the mother of his now 14-year-old son) during the early morning hours of Jan. 14. On the second visit, Wheeler said he was asked by his supervisor, APD Lt. Jeanette Mathias, to check to see if Cross was at the residence and, if so, arrest him for trespassing per Mobley’s instructions.

Cross was indeed at the residence and, as requested, Wheeler said he placed him under arrest, taking him back to the APD to begin paperwork on the charge.

Wheeler testified that he was in the booking area, seated across the table from Cross. He added that Magistrate Mobley was in his office, approximately 10-15 feet away, also filling out paperwork.

“Mr. Cross began asking Mr. Mobley some questions, basically accusing him of having an affair with Ms. Pressley,” Wheeler testified under questioning from Sherri Horner, an Assistant District Attorney from Greenville who was specially assigned to handle the case for the state.

“Did Mr. Cross threaten Mr. Mobley,” asked Horner, to which Wheeler replied, “no.”

“Did Mr. Cross use loud or abusive language,” Horner quizzed.

“The only time he raised his voice was when he told Mr. Mobley that he would hold him responsible if anything happened to his son,” Wheeler answered.

Wheeler testified that Mobley came out of his office into the booking area and told Cross…“something to the effect of you have one more time to accuse me of something I haven’t done.”

At that point, Wheeler said Cross started to speak, but Mobley said, “Do you understand me?” As Cross started to speak again, Wheeler said Mobley repeated the question and then approached Cross where he struck the unrestrained arrestee twice – with a close fist, once with each hand, in the face.

Wheeler said the blows knocked Cross from his chair and onto the floor. He added that Cross asked him, “What are you going to do about that” to which Wheeler told Cross, “to have a seat.”

“I then called my Lieutenant (who was in the front office),” Wheeler said.

Wheeler also testified to the fact that Cross asked to be taken to the hospital.

“I said he could go if he was bleeding,” Wheeler said. “I checked his mouth and his lips and there was a speck of blood, but he chose not to go to the hospital.”

Under cross-examination, Ahoskie attorney Perry Martin, legal counsel for Mobley, asked Wheeler if he had previous calls to Pressley’s residence. Wheeler answered affirmatively, adding they were…“pretty much domestic violence matters.”

“How would you characterize your previous dealings with Mr. Mobley,” Martin inquired.

“Very professional; I’ve never seen him get angry,” Wheeler replied.

Wheeler, upon questioning, went on to say that the situation on Jan. 14 began to deteriorate when Cross repeatedly accused Mobley of the affair (with Pressley). However, Wheeler added that Cross did not disrupt him while he was filling out his paperwork.

Under a re-direct from Horner, Wheeler testified that Cross never went inside Mobley’s office nor did he get in Mobley’s face or point fingers.

During his defense, Martin called Lt. Mathias to the stand. She testified that she had known Magistrate Mobley for 21 years and judged him as…“a non-violent, honorable man; always professional.”

Martin asked if Mathias had any previous dealings with Cross.

“In most cases I’ve dealt with him he was always the instigator,” she responded.

Mathias testified that in the early morning hours of Jan. 14, she noticed Pressley crying while sitting on the steps outside the APD. She recalled asking Pressley why she was so upset, receiving an answer that Cross wouldn’t leave her alone.

In regards to Cross, earlier on the morning of Jan. 14, seeking to file a complaint on Pressley, Martin asked Mathias did she recall hearing Mobley repeatedly telling Cross not to go back to the residence. Mathias answered affirmatively.

“Have you ever known Mr. Mobley to threaten or abuse anybody,” Martin asked, to which Mathias replied, “no.”

Mathias added that after the alleged punches were thrown, she noticed that Mobley seemed “visibly shaken.”

“I asked him if he was okay,” Mathias recalled. “I don’t think he knew what happened.”

Under cross-examination, Horner asked Mathias if at anytime during her career as a police officer had there been incidents where she had been verbally abused.

Mathias answered affirmatively, which Horner followed by asking, “Did you use violence (in those incidents)”?

“No,” replied Mathias.