April 23, 2009
|City Council Gets 18 Month Reprieve|
The Greensboro City Council should have one less worry on their plate for the next year and a half, because William Marshburn, who was charged with threatening to kill them, was found guilty of disturbing the peace on Monday, April 20, in Guilford County District Court and sentenced to stay away from city hall and the councilmembers for 18 months.
All charges of communicating threats against city councilmembers by Marshburn were dismissed on Monday. But the threats are what got the whole thing started. Marshburn reportedly called the city Planning Department on June 2, 2008, and in talking to a member of the staff said repeatedly that he intended to kill the councilmembers so they could not annex his land.
Greensboro Police Department detectives went out to Marshburn's house to interview him. The detectives did not arrest him for communicating threats, but advised him that it would not be a good idea to attend the upcoming City Council meeting. They said they did not tell him he could not go, because it was his right to go to the meeting, but they advised him that because of his agitated state he would probably be better off staying home.
However, Marshburn ignored their advice and went to the City Council meeting on Tuesday, June 3, 2008. He was stopped shortly after entering the city hall because he had a bullhorn and a backpack. Police officers testified that they also saw a bulge in his pocket and asked Marshburn to keep his hands out of his pockets, but they testified that he was extremely agitated and did not appear able to keep his hands out of his pockets.
The bulge in his pocket turned out to be mace.
It's not good for a defendant when a judge has to reprimand him for his behavior in court, and District Court Judge Tom Jarrell reprimanded Marshburn when Marshburn spoke out from the defendant's table, saying that he wanted to tell his side of the story. Jarrell explained that the court had rules and Marshburn was not to speak from the defendant's table; that he was to communicate to the court through his attorney, Brian Tomlin. Jarrell was polite but firm.
Assistant District Attorney Tom Carruthers prosecuted the case, and an interesting aspect of the testimony of the police officers involved was that none of them said that they grabbed Marshburn and forced him outside. They also agreed that he was not cooperative when they told him to keep his hands out of his pockets and to move outside, but that they all made it outside without incident.
When Marshburn testified, he said that the officer or security guard who first said that they would have to search asked him "very gently," what he had in his pockets.
His story and that of the detectives were very similar. Marshburn said that when an officer grabbed his arm, it probably wouldn't have hurt most people but because he has rheumatoid arthritis it caused him intense pain. Marshburn said he had been on disability since 2000 because of his arthritis, and his explanation for the use of obscenities and profanity was the pain he was in. Marshburn testified that several times he thought he missed part of the conversation. He didn't say that he blacked out, but that he didn't know exactly what was going on.
Marshburn's attorney, Tomlin, let Marshburn tell his story.
Caruthers pointed out that Marshburn had entered city hall with a bullhorn, mace and a backpack that was packed for jail. He noted that Marshburn had an extra pair of socks in his backpack.
Marshburn was originally upset because his house at 4693 Long Valley Road was being annexed by the City of Greensboro, and he was opposed to the annexation. He said he was going to the City Council meeting because he thought hundreds of his neighbors would be there, but he didn't see a big crowd.
Jarrell said the biggest punishment would be to prevent Marshburn from going to City Council meetings for a while, so in addition to court costs, a $100 fine and 30 days suspended sentence, Jarrell ordered Marshburn to stay away from city hall and city councilmembers for 18 months.