Transcript reveals more information about raid, why warrants were sealed
HICKORY — Sheriff Coy Reid and lots of Facebook commenters speculated the April 19, 2018 SBI search of the Catawba County Sheriff's Office was politically motivated. Jason Reid, who is Coy Reid's son and former employee and was now running for sheriff, was the focus of the investigation.
The search warrants executed on the first day of early voting were sealed. The secrecy fueled more questions.
On April 25, 2018, Leslie Dismukes with the state’s attorney general’s office, Debora Bechtel, Catawba County attorney, and Lisa Dubs, personal attorney for Sheriff Coy Reid, appeared before Superior Court Judge Daniel Kuehnert in a closed session to discuss the search, the warrants and why the warrants were sealed.
That secret session’s transcript is now public. The transcript is more than 80 pages long. Here is a look at what we've learned from the unsealed documents.
1. Why did the State Bureau of Investigation conduct the search on the first day of early voting?
The investigation into a tracking device reportedly found on Erica Sigmon's car made its way to the SBI in August 2017.
Sigmon is the ex-girlfriend of Jason Reid. Dismukes said the AG’s office had no intention of asking the SBI to conduct a search on the sheriff’s office on April 19, but had to to preserve evidence.
“As we have related to the Court, the timing for that particular search warrant was because we had learned that the victim had been approached and had spoken to a member of the media,” Dismukes said.
WBTV published an interview with the victim about the alleged stalking incident and found tracking device on April 19 as the search was being conducted on the sheriff’s office.
“And so, at the time we were worried that to protect the interest of the investigation we needed to go ahead and execute that search warrant, where we had previously been intending to hold off on doing that,” Dismukes said.
2. Why did Sheriff Coy Reid, Jason Reid’s father and former boss, ask for the warrants to be sealed?
Coy Reid’s personal attorney Lisa Dubs laid out several reasons to the court as to why Coy Reid wanted the warrants sealed.
“At the time that the Sheriff asked that this be sealed, his concerns were not only about the election, not only about the allegations, but his officers as well,” Dubs said. “There is information in there, in the search warrant, about how the units, or the trackers are used.”
Dubs went on to argue that leaving the warrant unsealed would expose investigative tactics and information to the general public.
The location of the narcotics office was also included in the warrants. When the warrants were unsealed, that information and other sensitive information were redacted.
However, on April 25, Dubs asked the judge to also seal the order sealing the search warrants.
“What the Sheriff’s concern is now… since the order says the Sheriff asked for the (sealing of the) search warrant, that the implication is that the sheriff has something to hide,” she said. “Something about either his son, something about the candidacy or something that happened in his office….”
3. How did Coy Reid react to the SBI agents searching the office?
Dismukes said Coy Reid was upset, and “rightfully so.”
“I completely understand (why he was upset),” Dismukes said. “But (he) was willing to allow (the agents) to start their investigation at that point.”
Agents at the narcotics office quickly realized the information they needed was all located at the sheriff’s office on a server.
“I will say, Your Honor, it was difficult at first,” Dismukes said. “The Sheriff did not want to give us access to anything. The documents that were turned over Monday in your chambers were documents that the Sheriff had in his hand and took and walked away that were directly responsive to the search warrant itself.
“He kept those and did not turn them over during the execution of the search warrant on Thursday. And we didn’t get them until Monday.”
Bechtel said those documents were not handed over right away because Coy Reid had questions about the warrant and the paperwork for Bechtel, who was not aware the SBI was at the sheriff's office until around 3 p.m. that day.
Once Bechtel spoke to the business manager and Coy Reid, the financial records the SBI were looking for were turned over to the SBI.
Dismukes also said Coy Reid told SBI agents to go home, that he would not be there on Friday and the office closed at 5 p.m. so they would have to come back on Monday.
“Luckily none of that came to a head,” Dismukes said.
The SBI agents were able to complete almost all of their search on April 19 before receiving the financial documents the search warrant asked for on April 23.
4. How sure is the AG’s office that the tracking device came from the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office?
While Jason Reid is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, Dismukes said it is a fact the tracking device belonged to the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office and Jason Reid had been using it at the time of its discovery on Erica Sigmon’s vehicle.
“The search warrant details all of that information,” she said. “Basically, that the tracker belonged to the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office. That it was one of two trackers they had at the time… That it was tracking back to a certain cell phone number.
“That cell phone number was assigned to Jason Reid during this time. And we have laid out all the facts in the timeline in the search warrant. So, those are facts that we were able to gather from the independent companies.”
Kuehnert then asks Dismukes if she’s assuming that it is the sheriff’s department’s cell phone and tracker.
And she says, “Well, Your Honor, we’re not assuming.”
5. What is Coy Reid’s side of the story?
The HDR interviewed Coy Reid on Sept. 27. He confirmed he did ask for the search warrants to be sealed for several reasons.
In the original, non-redacted versions the narcotics office address and a map showing how to get to the narcotics office was included in the warrant. Coy Reid’s granddaughter’s phone number was also included in the warrant. The granddaughter's phone number surfaced in a search of numbers related to Jason Reid's personal phone.
“I didn’t want just every drug dealer in the county to have a map to my narcotics unit and have my granddaughter’s phone number,” he said.
When asked if he was afraid of the public knowing that he asked for the warrants to be sealed, Coy Reid said: “I don’t know anything about that. Again, the seal was for the safety of my officers.” Looking back on the day the warrants were served on his office, Coy Reid recalls being confused as to why it took eight months for a search to be done, especially on possible misdemeanor charges. Jason Reid was eventually charged with two felonies and two misdemeanors.
“Why didn't they come eight months ago?” he said, referring to the time that elapsed between when Erica Sigmon filed a police report in August 2017 to the SBI's arrival in April 2018. “If they felt like there was evidence there, why didn’t they come eight months ago? Why would they wait eight months to come and then the person who they’re accusing hadn’t worked there for two months.” Jason Reid resigned from the sheriff's office in February 2018.
As for his reaction to the SBI agents, Coy Reid said he wasn’t sure what Dismukes’ definition of difficult meant, but he was not happy the agents were there.
“I made the statement that we’re closing up at 5?” he pondered. “Well let me think a minute. You know they come at 9 o’clock in the morning and I was with them all day. All day. And I could have said that. I don’t know if I did now or not. I don’t remember.”
Coy Reid also said he did not purposely withhold documents from the SBI agents.
“If I had, wouldn’t they have arrested me or taken if from me?” he said.
Overall, Coy Reid still sees the date of the execution of the search as a political move, and reiterated how he felt about the whole investigation.
“Let’s put it like this: I wasn’t happy, and so you know, if I said some things that hurt their feelings then, you know, I’m sorry,” he said. “But I’m also sorry that they come in there on opening voting day with this search warrant when they had eight months to come in there and they didn’t they couldn’t wait two more weeks to come in there.
“... I perceive it to be political.”