Gov. Pat McCrory this week honored the Alamance County sheriff who's currently fighting a federal lawsuit that accuses his department of racial profiling.
Sheriff Terry Johnson received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine this week - the second time he's gotten the award. The Long Leaf Pine award is considered one of North Carolina's top civilian honors, but it's not exactly a rare recognition - it's been bestowed on more than 14,000 people since its creation in the 1960s. A database of recipients lists more than 500 new honorees this year alone.
Johnson was presented the award during a dinner in his honor. McCrory wasn't present, but Congressman-elect Mark Walker was.
McCrory spokesman Ryan Tronovitch said the decision to honor Johnson was unrelated to the federal investigation and lawsuit. "Sheriff Terry Johnson has a proven record of decades of service to not only the great state of North Carolina, but also his local community," Tronovitch said.
According to the Burlington Times-News, a friend of the sheriff said she'd spent hours on the phone with McCrory's staff persuading them that Johnson deserved a second honor. He was given the award in 2001 by Gov. Mike Easley after decades with the State Bureau of Investigation.
Tronovitch says the double award isn't uncommon. "People have received the OLLP award more than once in the past," he said in an email.
The U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit accuses Johnson of ordering roadblocks in Latino neighborhoods and arresting Hispanic residents without probable cause. While the trial concluded in August, a judge has yet to rule on the case.