Special Reports

The SBI over the years: Who's been in charge



A story Friday on Page 10A chronicling the SBI's leadership misstated the position now held by Bryan E. Beatty. He is a North Carolina utilities commissioner.


Over the past two weeks, a News & Observer series and a scathing internal audit commissioned by Attorney General Roy Cooper have laid bare a host of problems at the State Bureau of Investigation. Analysts withheld or distorted the results of blood tests in 230 cases. Field agents tailored investigations to please prosecutors or ignored key evidence. These problems span decades. Here's a look at who's been in charge of the SBI during that time.

The N.C. attorney general oversees the State Bureau of Investigation and hires and fires the SBI director.

Roy Cooper: 2001-present

Salary: $123,198

Of note: Cooper has been on notice of SBI problems for years in highly publicized cases such as Floyd Brown, Alan Gell and George Goode, in which SBI agents withheld evidence of innocence, misreported lab results or obtained questionable confessions.

Mike Easley: 1993-2001

Status: After eight years as governor from 2001 to 2009, Easley returned to private life.

Of note: As attorney general, Easley and his staff vehemently opposed opening full police and prosecutorial files to defendants.

Lacy Thornburg: 1985-1993

Status: Thornburg is a U.S. District Court judge in Western North Carolina.

The SBI director runs the state's largest investigative agency, with 337 agents and a $12 million laboratory with a staff of 167. SBI field agents help police agencies across the state investigate serious crimes, while its lab analyzes crime scene evidence such as DNA, blood and firearms.

Greg McLeod: 2010-present

Status: Appointed this past month

Of note: McLeod has spent most of his career as a lobbyist for the attorney general, the Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, and the Governor's Office.

Robin Pendergraft: 2001-2010

Status: After being removed in July, Pendergraft is now a senior deputy attorney general in charge of Medicaid Fraud.

Salary: $113,293

Bryan Beatty: 1999-2001

Status: Commissioner, N.C. Industrial Commission

Salary: $123,198

Jim Coman 1993 -1999

Status: Senior deputy attorney general

Salary: $131,829

Of note: One of the state's most senior criminal lawyers and prosecutors, Coman is known for his colorful, blunt-spoken style and loyalty to his staff and colleagues.

Charles Dunn: 1991-1993

Status: died 1996

Of note: Dunn served two terms as SBI director, once in the 1970s.

The SBI counsel is the agency's top legal adviser.

John Watters: 1993-present

Salary: $104,005

Of note: Watters has built a reputation for fighting requests to release information not specifically listed in the state's discovery law, and has been particularly resistant to defense experts observing tests in the crime lab.

SBI crime lab leadership

Jerry Richardson: director: 2002-present

Salary: $98,481

Of note: Richardson has no science education. He graduated with a degree in communications from N.C. State University. During an interview with The News & Observer in July, he struggled to explain the policies of his laboratory.

Al Stevens: 1999-2002

Salary: $78,603

Status: retired

Billy Matthews: mid 1990s

Salary: $64,950

Status: retired

Harold Elliot: 1986 - 1995

Salary: $70,137

Status: retired

Ralph Keaton, assistant crime lab director under Elliot until 1995

Salary: $63,914

Of note: Keaton heads ASCLD-LAB, the agency that certifies the SBI has proper protocol and performs appropriate scientific analysis.