Hypocrites prosecute Cole Withrow but let Asst principal off scot-free!

Illustrating hypocrisy, a complete absence of judgment, common sense AND knowledge of NC state firearms laws, Johnston County officials have penalized senior high school student and Eagle Scout, Cole Withrow just weeks prior to his graduation with honors.

Was he also caught with illegal drugs or burglary tools? No, these offenses are apparently less-harshly punished. Cole's transgression was honestly reporting that he had mistakenly left his shotgun in his truck after skeet shooting the day before. What has he received for straight-forwardly admitting his harmless error? Expulsion and a felony charge.

Hypocrisy of selective prosecution on display

Cole may be fortunate that GRNC was able last year to change language in state law that requires firearms must be “knowingly” brought to campus to merit a felony charge. His unintentional error clearly does not meet this standard, and he is being charged and penalized more aggressively than either the law or good sense allows.

Ironically, just over two years ago, at the same school, assistant principal Catherine Bennett mistakenly brought a handgun to school, which stayed in a vehicle on campus for two weeks and was actually found and handled by auto shop students who worked on the vehicle. And what penalty did Bennett suffer? Three days suspension and no criminal charges. In fact, the school's resource officer, sheriff's deputy Andy Worley, got two days suspension for trying to hide the crime.

Cole's predicament is clear illustration of why WE MUST resist ANY new gun control proposals and not rest before current restrictions upon lawfully bearing arms are rescinded.

We need to send a message to the DA, Principal and School Board involved letting them know that North Carolina gun owners will not stand idly by and watch one of their own pilloried by anti-gun zealots misapplying the law to entrap and punish the law-abiding.


•    CALL JOHNSTON CO. D.A. SUSAN DOYLE at 919-209-5520 or fax to: 919-934-4380. ( Susan@dasusandoyle.com ) She doesn't provide an email contact, so she will hear from us in person. Tell her to dismiss any and all charges against Cole Withrow. You can also contact her via her campaign Facebook page at:

•    EMAIL PRINCETON HS PRINCIPAL KIRK DENNING & JOHNSTON CO. SCHOOL BOARD: Tell them that their hypocrisy in first expelling Withrow and then, amid national scrutiny, only partially retracting that penalty is particularly vile in view of their light treatment of an assistant principal at the same school whose transgression was considerably worse.

•    CONTRIBUTE TO THE COLE WITHROW LEGAL DEFENSE FUND: GRNC's non-profit arm, Rights Watch International, has started a legal defense fund to defray legal expenses incurred by the Withrow family. To help out, CLICK HERE or go to: http://rightswatch.org/cole-withrow

Contact Information:

Use the following cut-and-paste email list:

KirkDenning@johnston.k12.nc.us, larrystrickland@johnston.k12.nc.us, dorothyjohnson@johnston.k12.nc.us, white_donnam@hotmail.com, butlerhall@johnston.k12.nc.us, keithbranch@allstate.com, psmith@campbell.edu, pwooten883@aol.com


Johnston County Officials:

The actions of Princeton High administrators, the Johnston County School Board, and the Johnston County District Attorney are stunning for the breadth of their bias, ignorance and hypocrisy.

First, you expelled Eagle Scout David Cole Withrow and had him charged with felony violation of G.S. 14-269.2 despite the fact that a change made by Grass Roots North Carolina to the law, effective December 1, 2011, requires that the violation occur "knowingly," which is clearly not the case with Withrow's accidental transgression.

Then your representative, Tracey Peedin Jones, had the gall to say: “[The] administration reacted promptly and the proper procedures and protocol were followed.”

Really? Were "proper procedures" followed in March of 2011, when it was discovered that Assistant Principal Catherine Bennett brought a handgun to school in her vehicle, which sat on educational property for two weeks, during which time it was actually handled by students? Or rather did School Resource Officer Andy Worley attempt to hide the crime -- a transgression for which he was suspended for two days?

Did you fire Bennett? Was she charged with a felony? We both know the answer to both questions is "no."

Despite the tortured legal rationalization given by Johnston Sheriff Steve Bizzell, the only individual truly guilty of committing a felony is Bennett: Her transgression occurred nine months prior to our change in the law (House Bill 650, which became Session Law 2011-268, effective December 1, 2011), meaning that because "knowingly" had not yet been inserted into the law, she is guilty of -- and can be prosecuted for -- a Class I felony.

So now, under national scrutiny, you relent to allow Withrow to graduate, albeit after being stigmatized by schooling and graduation absent the reward of enjoying, with his peers, an accolade he earned.

Big deal. What you propose is not nearly enough to compensate Cole Withrow for staining his life forever. Here is what decency demands:

1.    Immediately re-admit David Cole Withrow to Princeton High School and allow him to graduate with full honors in accordance with what he has earned;

2.    Immediately drop all criminal charges and apologize to the Withrow family for maliciously mis-interpreting the law;

3.    Make a financial settlement to the Withrow family for the legal expenses and pain and suffering you have cost them;

4.    Immediately fire Catherine Bennett from her position at Princeton High School, or any other Johnston County School position, and begin proper procedures for charging her with felony violation of N.C.G.S. 14-269.2, since she is still within the statute of limitations (if any) for prosecution.

I do thank you, however, for demonstrating so clearly why the current prohibition on guns on educational property needs to be repealed: If we rely on "prosecutorial discretion," the result is that Eagle Scouts get prosecuted, and their lives ruined, while "insiders" like Bennett go free.


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