Fri, Jul. 20, 2007
Official accused of paying for sex
SBI: Cabarrus' Privette met with woman at motel in May and June
VICTORIA CHERRIE AND SHARIF DURHAMS
Coy Privette, a retired Baptist pastor, conservative awmaker and outspoken advocate for Christian groups, was charged Thursday with paying a prostitute for sex acts.
The 74-year-old Cabarrus County commissioner was arrested at his home in Kannapolis early Thursday. He appeared before a Rowan County magistrate on six misdemeanor charges and was released on a promise to appear in court Aug. 22. He did not return e-mails or calls to his cell and home phones, and no one answered the door at his Kannapolis home.
Privette, a prominent Republican with a 30-year career, is one of the state's most vocal opponents against alcohol sales and legal gambling. He also serves on the State Baptist Convention of North Carolina and as president of the Christian Action League of North Carolina.
At a news conference in Raleigh late Thursday, the league's executive director announced Privette's suspension as president until his court case is resolved.
"We have a responsibility to reserve judgment," said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director, "but it's also important to preserve the integrity of this organization."
Milton Hollifield Jr., executive director of the Baptist Convention, said he was unable to reach Privette for an explanation. Nothing has been decided about his role with the organization.
"He has been a faithful and loyal servant to his state and the convention for many years," Hollifield said. "I believe Coy will do the right thing with regards to his responsibilities to the convention."
Suspicious check started probe
Privette was charged with six counts of aiding and abetting or participating in prostitution, said Woody Chavis, interim Kannapolis police chief.The charges stem from a Kannapolis bank contacting police about a suspicious check written off Privette's checking account, Chavis said. The bank also called Privette, who filed a forgery affidavit, Chavis said. The bank reimbursed him and the Police Department began investigating.
Law enforcement sources said a woman had a blank check with Privette's signature. She filled it out for $1,000 but couldn't cash it without an ID, so she asked a friend to do it, the sources said. Another check with Privette's signature, for $4,000, was not cashed, they said.
Chavis said the check investigation led detectives to "illegal activity" in Salisbury.
Kannapolis police called Rowan District Attorney William Kenerly, who asked the State Bureau of Investigation to investigate. Kenerly declined to comment.
Warrants issued by the SBI on Thursday accuse Privette of paying Tiffany Denise Summers, 32, of Salisbury, for sexual acts from May 4 through June 25 in a Salisbury hotel room. A witness listed on the warrants is a narcotics investigator for the Kannapolis Police Department.
Summers was charged with six counts of prostitution, according to the warrants.
The Salisbury Post asked Privette about a possible investigation about two weeks ago, the newspaper reported Thursday. Privette said he lost his wallet at a Salisbury restaurant, and when he got it back two personal checks were missing, according to the newspaper.
Summers has previous convictions for drug possession, prostitution and possessing stolen goods, according to court documents. Last month, Salisbury police officers picked her up near a hotel where rooms are rented by the hour. Salisbury officers have arrested her several times for drug activity, Salisbury Police Chief Mark Wilhelm said. In one case, according to court documents, Summers was found with a man's ATM card.
When contacted by the Observer on Thursday, Summers would only comment on the charges against her, saying: "I don't think it's right."
`Shocked and dismayed'
The forgery complaint is still under investigation by Kannapolis police, Chavis said.
Fellow commissioners had not heard from Privette as of Thursday evening. He initially planned to meet with the county manager Thursday afternoon but changed his mind and left town, Chairman Bob Carruth said.
There is no law requiring a public official who's charged with a crime to resign. If Privette stepped down, a replacement would be chosen by the county's Republican Party, officials said.
Privette has been a member of the board since 1998 and was a member of the state House from 1984 to 1992.
He is a longtime member of North Kannapolis Baptist Church, where he was named a pastor emeritus, a high honor, the Rev. David Prather said.
"We're shocked and dismayed and just concerned for the family -- children, grandchildren, wife -- and trying to reach out to them," he said.
Privette was pastor at the church for 14 years and has been a leader of the men's ministry. The church sponsored Privette and his wife, Betty, on visits to China to teach English as a second language.
"Just as his pastor, I'm trying to reach out to him and his wife and let him know we still love him," Prather said.
Staff writers KytJa Weir, Gail Smith-Arrants and lena warmack and researchers Maria Wygand, Sara Klemmer and Marion Paynter contributed.