This whole story is sad, and it's going to get sadder - as people rip each other apart over how they react to it.
Prominent and connected folks in Western NC with old grudges and grievances will use this as an opportunity to score-settle. And, in the process, people will be eaten up and spit out by the media- and social media-fueled outrage machine.
It started with a hastily-(and maybe illegally-) called meeting by the UNC Asheville Board of Trustees. The Citizen-Times reporters digging into why that happened uncovered the reason:
The longtime chief executive of one of the city's largest charities has returned an honorary degree he received from UNC Asheville amid renewed concerns over a guilty plea to a sexual offense more than 30 years ago.
William "Bill" Murdock, who co-founded Eblen Charities in the early 1990s, said he voluntarily returned the degree last week. The decision was his, he said.
Why did Murdock return the degree?
In August 1988, Murdock pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of taking indecent liberties with a child under 16 years old, according to documents obtained by the Citizen Times through a request with the Buncombe County District Attorney's office.
The date of the offense listed in court papers was June 12, 1987. The girl would have been 15 at that time.
When the arrest warrant was issued, the victim was 16 and Murdock was a 32-year-old teacher at Erwin High School. The girl had been a student in his math class when he taught at Erwin Middle School. Murdock also spent time at the home of the girl's family while he was separated from his wife at the time.
Murdock is adamant he never had a sexual relationship with the girl, but said he took the plea agreement — he was initially charged with felony indecent liberties with a child — because his attorney, Brent O'Conner, advised him that mounting a defense against the felony charges would cost $10,000-$15,000 in legal fees.
"I don't think I had $15 to my name," Murdock said during an interview at his office March 12.
The Citizen Times has been unable to interview the now-47-year-old woman named in court documents. Her mother and brother both declined to comment for this story. A man told a reporter outside the victim's residence that the family won't be speaking to the newspaper at this time.
So, now we'll all be forced to litigate and judge a 30-year old case - because Murdock has run one of the region's most prominent and successful charities.
His guilty plea will give detractors all the proof they need that he's a #MeToo monster.
His account of being falsely accused will give his supporters all the proof they need that he's the local incarnation of Brett Kavanaugh.
And people will project upon this case all of their own personal biases and experiences in their efforts to destroy or defend.
If it is as Murdock says, he must fight -- which means outing the liars by name and holding them accountable to fullest extent of the law.
If it is not as Murdock says, his accusers need to provide more of the information that they've so far declined to offer.
Meanwhile, everyone who has spent decades working with Murdock and Eblen Charities - helping feed the hungry, giving toys to kids at Christmas, providing medical assistance, helping with housing, collecting school supplies for kids, and supporting education programs - will all be stuck in the middle.
And if this prompts people and organizations to sever ties with Eblen Charities over fears of being smeared by association, it will harm one of the best charities in the region. Thousands of local people in poverty will likely lose access to desperately needed programs and services.
Like I said... the whole story is sad.
Pete's Prep: Thursday, March 14, 2019
- The NC state elections director, Kim Strach, wants the state legislature to toughen penalties for absentee ballot fraud. WRAL has the story.
- The Charlotte Observer reports: "Ending a two-year battle, North Carolina’s biggest craft brewers have reached a compromise with the state’s wholesale distributors that would let them and other large brewers at least double their annual production."
- All of the major television network news shows ignored the story about former FBI attorney Lisa Page telling Congress in closed-door, sworn testimony that the Obama Justice Department told the FBI not to charge Secretary Hillary Clinton for “gross negligence." The Media Research Center tracks the (lack of) coverage.
- From the NY Daily News: "According to a report published in the journal Scientific Reports on Tuesday, a team of physicists was able to reverse time on an IBM quantum computer by a fraction of a second."