Former NC magistrate pleads guilty to tipping off people who were about to be arrested

Velody Foye-Byrd
Velody Foye-Byrd Johnston County Sheriff

A former Johnston County magistrate, who was accused of providing tips to people who had warrants out for their arrest and searching a government data system 71 times for a man with whom she had a personal issue, pleaded guilty Monday.

Velody Foye-Byrd pleaded guilty to accessing government computers, which is a misdemeanor, according to the Johnston County District Attorney’s Office. She received a 30-day suspended sentence and was placed on unsupervised probation for 18 months.

Johnston County District Attorney Susan Doyle said in a news release that “law enforcement could be placed in danger if criminals were ‘tipped off’ that the police were coming to serve outstanding warrants.”

The DA’s office said its joint investigation with the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation into Foye-Byrd’s actions began in October 2017.

As a magistrate, Foye-Byrd had access to a computer program called CJLEADS. The program includes criminal and driving records, addresses, images and other personal information.

An SBI audit of Foye-Byrd’s search history within the program revealed she made many searches that had no connection to her government duties, according to the DA’s office.

The SBI discovered Foye-Byrd searched for three victims “an extraordinary number of times,” the DA’s office said.

She searched for information on one person 71 times, according to the news release.

“Searches of Ms. Foye-Byrd’s cell phone and Facebook account revealed Ms. Foye-Byrd was having personal issues with this individual as well as an acquaintance of his, who Ms. Foye-Byrd searched 42 times in CJLEADS,” the release said.

The third victim was a bail bonds officer and friend of Foye-Byrd, the DA’s office said. Foye-Byrd admitted to an SBI agent that she had been “watching” the woman’s name in the computer system and informed the woman there was an order for her arrest.

As part of the guilty plea, Foye-Byrd agreed to resign from her job as a magistrate. Additionally, she agreed to “not seek employment as a magistrate or any other government position in which she would have access to government computer programs capable of accessing personal information about private citizens and law enforcement personnel,” according to the DA’s office.

“I appreciate the quick resolution of this matter, and I am satisfied that the defendant will not be able to invade the privacy of citizens or endanger law enforcement through her employment again,” Doyle said in the news release. “CJLEADS is a powerful and useful tool for government employees. It provides us with a wealth of information that enables us to evaluate and resolve cases in an efficient manner; however, the integrity of the program cannot be violated by those seeking to use CJLEADS for personal gain or to further personal vendettas.”

Colin Warren-Hicks: 919-419-6636, @CWarrenHicks