A Forsyth County judge has continued the trial of a Winston-Salem man charged with embezzling more than $100,000 from a local businessman.
The ruling came after the man’s defense attorney argued that his client, Charles Dewayne Washington, might not get a fair trial partially because of news coverage.
Washington is charged with two counts of embezzlement and one count of conspiracy. Jury selection was scheduled to begin Tuesday morning. On Monday, Judge Eric Morgan held a hearing on several pretrial motions, including one to prohibit prosecutors from introducing information about Washington’s prior conviction for embezzlement in 1989. Washington was found guilty of embezzling $6,352 from the Young Democrats of Forsyth County while he was the organization’s treasurer.
Morgan did not make a decision Monday, and on Tuesday the Winston-Salem Journal published an article about the hearing. On Tuesday, Morgan granted the motion to keep Washington’s prior conviction out of the trial.
Dan Anthony, Washington’s attorney, then made a motion to continue, citing the Winston-Salem Journal’s coverage of the case. He argued that members of the jury pool may have read the article, which included information that would never come in as evidence at trial. That would possibly make it difficult for Washington to get a fair trial, Anthony said.
Anthony said that while at a social function Tuesday morning, four different people approached him and told him that they had read about the case in the newspaper.
“The position of the defendant is that the only way to cure this is time,” Anthony said.
Morgan granted Anthony’s motion. Scott Harkey and Jordan Ford, special prosecutors for the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys, and Anthony will agree on a new trial date.
Washington is accused of stealing more than $100,000 from La Casa Real Estate and Investments LLC., a business owned by Bobby Slate. Indictments allege that Washington embezzled money over a three-year period from 2005 to 2008.
He is also accused of conspiring to embezzle money with co-defendant Rhonda Lea Byrd, 60, of Lexington.
Byrd was tried and convicted on three counts of embezzlement in April 2019. She was accused of embezzling nearly $1 million from Slate’s other businesses, Slate Retail Systems Inc. and Slate Packaging Inc. She pleaded guilty to two additional counts of embezzlement and one count of conspiracy. She is serving up to 10 years in prison.
Slate sued Byrd and Washington in federal court and alleged in court papers that the two stole a total of $3 million from his various businesses. The lawsuit alleged that Byrd started stealing first and then by 2004, Byrd and Washington started working together to open credit-card accounts and lines of credit at various financial institutions.
The lawsuit also alleged that the two used Slate’s new companies to open up additional credit-card accounts, lines of credit and loans, and then used that embezzled money to buy vacation homes in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and another home in High Meadows in the North Carolina mountains.
The lawsuit alleged that Byrd and Washington embezzled a total of $3.3 million in assets and that Slate and other plaintiffs lost $14 million in profits because certain developments could not be completed. The lawsuit was settled in 2013.