Officers cleared, back at work

First Posted: 1/15/2009

Staff report
LUMBERTON - Two Lumberton police officers who were the subjects of internal investigation have returned to full-time duty, according to a statement by Police Chief Robert Grice.
Officer James Atkinson and Detective Larry Williamson were placed on vacation leave April 21 after their names appeared as part of a federal case against a fellow officer, Lt. Leon Oxendine, who was charged in April with witness tampering, making false statements to the FBI and false declarations to a federal grand jury. All of the charges are felonies.
Last month, U.S. Magistrate William A. Webb ordered Oxendine not to have contact with a number of people - including Atkinson and Williamson - as a condition of his pre-trial release.
“Because both officers were mentioned in the judge's orders … the department had a fiduciary responsibility to determine the nature and issues that led to the order,” Grice said. “It takes time to look into such matters and, during this time, it would not have been appropriate for the officers to be actively working.”
The internal investigation, which focused on whether the officers had violated any department policies, cleared Atkinson and Williamson of any wrongdoing, and each returned to full duty status on Friday, Grice said.
“If we had found any violation or misconduct by the officers, it would have been dealt with appropriately,” Grice said. “However, we did not, and we welcome them back to active duty.”
Grice, in a statement released last week, said he was disappointed the investigation of Atkinson and Williamson attracted so much public attention.
“This was very unfair to these officers, and we would hope as much publicity is given to their return to active duty as their time on vacation,” Grice said.

The Oxendine case
Oxendine led the department's Selective Enforcement Team, and both Atkinson and Williamson had been connected with investigations led by Oxendine at some point.
Oxendine is accused of lying to the FBI and a federal grand jury about the planting of evidence in a case involving a police informant, Scott LaClaire, an another officer, James Jordan.
In March, LaClaire pleaded no contest to obstruction of justice, and Jordan was charged with giving state and federal agents false information during the investigation. Each has agreed to testify against Oxendine, and their sentencing has been delayed until after that time.
According to the indictment, Oxendine ordered LaClaire to plant a computer disk containing an image of a counterfeit $100 bill at 11 Albion St. on Sept. 6, 2001.
The felony charges against Oxendine carry penalties of up to 40 years in prison and $1.75 million in fines. A trial date has not been set.

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