Gaston County deputies block news media access to courtroom 4C on Thursday in Gastonia after telling a TV reporter he could not place his camera across from the doors. The courtroom was the site of a hearing on SBI warrants in the investigation of Jason Reid, a candidate for Catawba County sheriff and son of the current sheriff. Frank Taylor / Carolina Public Press

A grand jury has indicted Jason Reid on multiple counts relating to allegations that he used Catawba County Sheriff’s Office equipment to stalk his ex-girlfriend in Lincoln County.

Jurors returned indictments on three misdemeanor counts — cyberstalking, stalking and willfully failing to discharge duties — all charges that a previously known State Bureau of Investigation search warrant in the case had indicated. But the jurors also indicted Reid on charges of embezzlement by a local officer and larceny, felony charges that did not appear on the search warrant.

The grand jury was impaneled in Lincoln County, N.C. Department of Justice spokesperson Laura Brewer told Carolina Public Press on Thursday. Assistant Attorney General Bob Zellinger acted as prosecutor. Asked about how the prosecution will be handled going forward, with the allegations against Reid apparently crossing jurisdictional lines between Lincoln and Catawba counties, Brewer said the Justice Department could not comment further on the active case.

Captain, candidate, suspect

A former sheriff’s captain who a few weeks ago hoped to succeed his father, Coy Reid, as Catawba County sheriff, Jason Reid has been dogged by an SBI probe since last summer.

In August, Jason Reid’s ex-girlfriend contacted Lincoln County Sheriff David Carpenter, for whom Reid also previously worked, about a tracking device on her car and harassing messages, allegedly from Jason Reid. After examining the device, Carpenter informed District Attorney Mike Miller, who asked the SBI to look into the case.

The SBI’s investigation became public knowledge April 19, when the agency executed a search warrant at an office belonging to the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office.

Some details surrounding that warrant and its initial sealing by a judge in Catawba County remain the subject of a news media coalition lawsuit in which Carolina Public Press is a participant.

A heavily redacted version of the warrant, showing the SBI’s probable cause statement, went public on May 5, just ahead of the primary election, in which Jason Reid lost badly to Newton Police Chief Don Brown. With no opposition in the heavily Republican county, Brown is expected to win easily in November and take office in December.

The news media coalition is seeking the disclosure of additional information about a secretive hearing in April, during which Judge Daniel Kuehnert first sealed the warrant, despite no sealing request from the Department of Justice, the SBI or the district attorneys in Lincoln or Gaston counties.

It’s unclear who wanted the warranted sealed and why, though the personal attorney for Sheriff Reid appeared at a May 4 hearing Gastonia to argue against unsealing the warrant.

Judge Jeff Carpenter, who initially signed the search warrant and presided over the hearing in Gastonia, questioned why the SBI had gone to so much trouble to execute a warrant in a case that involved only minor misdemeanor charges, even awakening the judge at his home in Union County in the early morning hours to sign the warrant. The inclusion of felony charges in the indictment partially answers that question.

Judge Carpenter ultimately ruled May 5 in favor of releasing portions of the warrant, while keeping in place a seal on Kuehnert’s earlier hearing and a gag order on discussion of that hearing. The news media coalition has indicated plans to appeal Carpenter’s decision to the Court of Appeals.

The released portion of the search warrant and the indictments indicate that prosecutors suspect Jason Reid stole a GPS tracking device belonging to the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office and converted it to track his ex-girlfriend between July 30 and Aug. 7, 2017.

The indictment states, “This act was done without his employer’s consent and contrary to the trust and confidence reposed in the defendant by his employer.”

At the time in question, Reid was a captain in the narcotics division of the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office. He stepped down in February to devote more time to his campaign for sheriff.

In this Lincoln Times-News photo from 2014, Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid appears at right, while Jason Reid, then an undercover narcotics agent with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, appears silhouetted to the left. Courtesy of the Lincoln Times-News

More on the Jason Reid case

Full text of the indictments, courtesy of coalition partner WBTV:

Coalition asking Court of Appeals to unseal court records, drop gag order, Carolina Public Press, June 6:

Warrant released, shows SBI suspects candidate used sheriff’s equipment to stalk ex, Carolina Public Press, May 5:

Media coalition challenges seal of SBI warrant in probe of sheriff candidate, Carolina Public Press, May 2:

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