Harold Ray Crews, the Walkertown lawyer who helped lead the state chapter of a white supremacist group, failed to provide complete records about how he handled client funds despite numerous requests, the N.C. State Bar alleges in a petition.
The State Bar is asking for an order requiring Crews, who has been an attorney since 1999, to appear in front of its Disciplinary Hearing Commission and explain why he should not have his law license suspended for not complying with an investigation into allegations that he mishandled client funds.
A hearing on Crews’ case is scheduled for Feb. 21 in Raleigh. He is still licensed to practice law, but in an email to the State Bar, he said he has closed his law firm and has focused on document review.
Crews could not be reached for comment. Both his office phone number and his home number appear to have been disconnected. In 2017, he declined to speak with a Winston-Salem Journal reporter about the white supremacist group, the League of the South, telling the reporter to “go away.”
According to the petition, the State Bar audited Crews’ trust accounts in March 2018. That audit showed that Crews had not properly documented how much money was going in and out of two trust accounts he had set up at First National Bank. In fact, he had not reconciled those accounts since they were opened in 2013, the petition says.
The petition does not mention how much money was in each trust account. The State Bar gave Crews four months to demonstrate that he had fixed the problem, but Crews failed to do so, according to the petition.
On Aug. 18, 2018, the State Bar filed a grievance against Crews to “address the apparent violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct stemming from the 2018 procedural audit.” On June 18, 2019, Crews was served a letter of notice. In that letter, the State Bar told Crews to provide copies from March 2018 through May 2019, proving that he had reconciled the accounts.
Crews said he needed until July 17, 2019, to provide that information. Then on July 14, 2019, he asked for more time and said he planned to hire an accountant to help him. Two days later, he provided an electronic link containing a portion of the trust account information. The State Bar found problems with how he handled at least one of the accounts.
“The ‘reconciliations’ also appeared to reflect multiple instances of overdisbursements from the trust account and unidentified or unidentifiable funds,” the petition says.
Crews asked for more time and the State Bar said it would grant his request if Crews entered into a preliminary injunction prohibiting him from handling any more trust accounts. A consent order was entered into on July 29, 2019. That order is still in effect, Katherine Jean, legal counsel for the State Bar, said Thursday.
The State Bar sent letters in November and December 2019 requesting that Crews provide information, including all client ledgers. In its petition, the State Bar says Crews has failed to provide all the information it has sought, including canceled checks, bank statements, deposit slips, and documentation of wire and electronic transfers. The State Bar says Crews is required to maintain all of that information in order to comply with the Rules of Professional Conduct.
Crews has served as the chairman of the League of the South’s North Carolina chapter. The league, which was formed in 1994, promotes white Southern nationalism and was one of the white nationalist and neo-Confederate groups that participated in the “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017. During that rally, white nationalist James Alex Fields Jr. drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one person and injuring more than 20.
Crews was at the rally and two months later he obtained an arrest warrant from a city magistrate in Charlottesville for DeAndre Harris, a then-20-year-old black man who was severely beaten by a group of white nationalists. Crews alleged that Harris had hit him in the face with a flashlight. Harris was eventually acquitted of charges that he assaulted Crews. Three men were convicted of beating Harris.