Gov. Pat McCrory’s challenger in the Republican primary asked about getting a shorter prison term for a convicted child molester who he called a “friend” and a “great teacher.”
Former state Rep. Robert Brawley made the inquiry in an email to the Department of Public Safety in September 2014, a few months before he left the House after losing a re-election bid.
“Can we find a way to help him?” Brawley asked about John Thomas Patterson Jr., 68, who’s serving a life sentence for molesting multiple students at a Mooresville elementary school in the 1970s and ‘80s. “Either moving him closer to Mooresville, where his family is, or reducing his sentence?”
Brawley then backed off the request after a public safety official provided details about Patterson’s conviction and explained that he was placed in a Bertie County prison – about 270 miles from Mooresville – at the request of his victims’ families.
“I respect your decision as best for all involved and perhaps I was a bit thoughtless not to think about the possible affects (sic) on the victims family,” Brawley replied. “Tommy was a friend growing up and we have mutual friends who would like to help but the victims family should receive first consideration. Again thank you and this ends my involvement.”
The political website Jones & Blount reported on the emails one day after Brawley announced he was running for governor. The article was written by Drew Elliot, who previously worked in the McCrory administration as the chief spokesman for the state’s environmental regulatory agency.
A spokesman for McCrory’s campaign declined to comment on Brawley’s actions involving the sex offender.
Brawley defended his actions in a statement. “As a representative, when one of my constituents calls and makes a request, it’s standard practice for me to make an inquiry on the subject so I can respond appropriately,” he said. “At the time of the inquiry, I was unaware of all the details of this case. After learning of horrific details I ended my involvement.”
Multiple Charlotte-area TV stations as well as the Statesville Record & Landmark newspaper reported on Patterson’s 2013 arrest and his conviction in 2014.
At a sentencing hearing in July 2014, according to the Record & Landmark, Patterson’s former students testified about his crimes and called him a “monster,” urging a judge to keep him behind bars for life.
Brawley represented parts of Statesville and Mooresville in the legislature at the time of Patterson’s arrest and conviction.
Derwin Long, 50, one of Patterson’s victims, told the Charlotte Observer that he’s known Brawley “for a very long time, and the email is just disappointing. He made a bad judgment call.”