Byrum enters Alford Plea

Published 8:53 am Tuesday, September 30, 2014

GATESVILLE – After numerous delays, the criminal case against Leslie Spencer Byrum has reached a conclusion.

Byrum – a veteran member of the Gates County Board of Education who is an accountant by trade – entered an Alford Plea in a case where he was originally charged with two felony counts of exploitation of the elderly, and one felony count of embezzlement. Those charges, and his subsequent arrest, were from November of 2012.

In an Alford Plea, a criminal defendant does not admit the act, but admits that the prosecution could likely prove the charge. The court will pronounce the defendant guilty. The defendant may plead guilty, yet not admit all the facts that comprise the crime.

According to records on file in the Gates County Clerk of Court’s office, Byrum’s case was disposed of last week (Sept. 23) during a session of Superior Court. There, Judge J. Carlton Cole accepted Byrum’s admission of guilt, pursuant to an Alford Plea, to a Class 3 misdemeanor of conversion by bailee, lessee, tenant or attorney-in-fact. According to North Carolina General Statute #14-168.1, every person entrusted with any property as bailee, lessee, tenant or lodger, or with any power of attorney for the sale or transfer thereof, who fraudulently converts the same, or the proceeds thereof, to his own use, or secretes it with a fraudulent intent to convert it to his own use, shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor.

In return, court records show that the felony charges of exploitation of the elderly and attempted exploitation of the elderly were dropped. The third charge – embezzlement – was dismissed in lieu of the misdemeanor conversion.

The court records also show that Judge Cole handed down a 20-day jail term, which was suspended. Byrum was given 12 months of unsupervised probation; fined $200 (to include court costs); and ordered to pay $3,604.27 in restitution, which he did on Sept. 23. That restitution was made payable to the estate of the victim, Syble Miles, a Gates County native who died in a Chowan County nursing home in June of 2012.

Contacted on Monday by phone, Byrum admitted that he used the $3,604.27 to purchase clothing, chairs, pictures and other items.

“Those things were purchased by me to make her room more pleasant at the nursing home and to make herself more comfortable in living there,” Byrum said. “She did not give me permission to purchase those items and that’s what I pled guilty to through the Alford Plea.

“I feel like I got a raw deal,” he continued. “I do have a heart as I did everything I could for Mrs. Miles, and this is the gratitude I got in return.”

In hindsight, Byrum said he would do the same thing again.

“I have nothing to be ashamed of,” he stressed.

He added that this is a “family situation.”

“I’m a third cousin of Mrs. Miles,” Byrum stated. “The odd thing is the person pushing this (the original charges) accompanied my wife and I on one of those shopping trips where some of those items were purchased.”

Byrum said he is planning to seek legal recourse by filing a civil lawsuit vs. the Miles estate and the executor.

“I have records, lot of records; I feel confident that I will prevail,” he concluded.

The allegations against Byrum were first reported in June of 2012 to the Gates County Sheriff’s Office. At that time, Gates County Sheriff Ed Webb said he consulted with then District Attorney Frank Parrish to fill him in on the status of this case. Based on Byrum’s position in the community as an elected official, it was decided to have the North Carolina SBI handle the investigation.

An SBI agent from the Greenville office was assigned to the case. Webb said that agent completed his investigation in early November of 2012 and arrest warrants were drawn based on the findings of that probe into Byrum’s alleged criminal actions.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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