A Few Extra Details From My Tabor City Trip…

Friday was my day to head to Tabor City. Reporter Lynda Figueredo has been closely following the Strickland/Soles ongoing saga. However, a schedule change had her coming in with the evening crew. Strickland’s first appearance in court for the suspicious fire at his home was at 9:30am Friday morning so the day started early.

Strickland was seen in District Court by Judge Fairley, who would not allow my camera into the court room. I stashed my gear in an office and followed Strickland upstairs. He was by himself.

When the Judge called him forward the District Attorney reviewed the charges against him: (1) Fraudulently setting fire to dwelling houses (i.e. burning down your house) and (2) Obtaining property with false pretenses (i.e. claiming insurance on the burnt house). Together, if given the maximum penalty, he could face 11 years in jail.

Strickland waived his right to a court appointed attorney – said he would find his own.  Then he got a little reminder from the Judge….

Judge Fairley leaned in and warned Strickland that anything he said outside of the counsel of his lawyer could be held against him in court. Now…I can’t speak for Judge Fairley, but I’m pretty sure that means, “If you continue to openly talk to the media…whatever you say…is fair game for the prosecutor if you go on trail.” At this point I’m thinking, “well…there goes my interview!” Allen has spoken with our crew multiple times, but after getting a stern warning from the bench…I figure that’s all over now…

Allen turned around and headed out of court…I wasn’t not too far behind.

Julie Fertig (reporter, Channel 14) and I followed him outside, cameras in hand, and asked for an interview which, to our shock, he agreed to. (really?!)

That interview went on for about 10 minutes and honestly, he seemed willing to talk for even longer than that. Basically, his defense for the house fire is that he has a house alarm record that shows that he opened the door to inside at 10pm…the fire was set at 4am…he was inside and the fire was set outside. Well…couldn’t he have just thrown something on fire out the window to get the fire going? He just looked at me blankly, as though that was a ridiculous suggestion. Later I met a woman in Tabor City who said she knew Strickland well (I can’t confirm this however), she said he’s just not crafty enough to devise a plan like that. Hopefully, investigators will be able to study the origin of the fire and how it spread and make a conclusion from there. One more note on that woman…she was very nervous to tell me her name or give any identifying information…she said she was terrified that “she’d get burned too” (that her house would also be set on fire). I’ve said this before…tension is high in Tabor City…and everyone seems to fear for what could happen to them if they talk…

Apparently, Strickland was asked to come to the local fire station to fill out permit forms to rebuild his house. He says when he arrived, he saw SBI cars parked on the side of the building. Once inside they handed him the warrants for his arrest and he says he was “shocked.” He says this is all a ploy to get him to talk about R.C. Soles. He called the Senator a “father figure” and says he’d “have nothing if it weren’t for him.”

There’s a lot of curiosity surrounding Strickland’s ability to pay a $100K bond. As you heard in the story, Stickland says that that money was given to him as a gift…he would not say from whom. What he has said repeatedly is that everything he has (money-wise) comes from Senator Soles. Strickland is not working and is not in school…his funding must come from somewhere. Whether or not he has other financiers…I don’t know and Strickland wouldn’t say.

Regarding the bond, Strickland just said that “no” Senator R.C. Soles did not come to bail him out or give him a lump of cash to get out of jail when he was arrested. Anchor Bob Townsend also talked to Soles…he would not do an interview…he just reaffirmed that he did not, on the day that Strickland was arrested, bail him out.

More about the bond: in case you aren’t familiar with how bonding works…if someone has a $100,000 bond (or any amount) they can work with a bond bailsmen to bail you out. Large bonds are given to people who the court feels are a “high risk” or unlikely to appear in court. Bond agent Jamil Best saw Strickland the day he was arrested…the two know each other…Strickland asked for help and Best became his agent. Strickland had to pay Best a percentage of the bond (which is usually between 7-10% of the total…Best asked me not to make his specific percentage public information because of his competitors). So Strickland didn’t have to shell over $100,000…he paid a percentage. Jamil Best now assumes responsibility for the full amount of the bond in the event Strickland doesn’t show. Best told me that Strickland paid a portion of the amount in cash…the rest came from a debit card in his name.

Strickland wasn’t in jail for long…he was cruising around town in his sports car in no time (which he has multiple citations for…).

While I was at the court house I stopped to check on any other pending cases Strickland had. He’s going to be quite a familiar face in Columbus County court: http://www1.aoc.state.nc.us/www/calendars.Officer.do?index=Next+25&start=0&navindex=0&agency=&defname=Strickland%2CAllen%2CWayne

Seems to be quite the variety.

Strickland wouldn’t say who his prospective new lawyer is. He said it’s a toss up between two Raleigh lawyers. Soles’ own lawyer works out of Raleigh but Strickland would not say if he was considering him.

I’ve been getting a kick out of all the viewer comments on our website. Someone suggested this story for a movie one day…

Its certainly got an crazy opening sequence….!

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