Assault charges against a Greensboro lawyer accused of severely beating a Rockingham County farmer last June were dropped after the attorney agreed to pay the elderly farmer and his wife an undisclosed amount to settle a lawsuit.
The N.C. Justice Department, which would have prosecuted attorney Krispen Culbertson, issued a statement saying it dismissed the misdemeanor charges against Culbertson at the request of the couple, Oscar Lee Hooper and Ann Hooper, both 72, of Browns Summit. The couple filed criminal charges and a lawsuit against Culbertson after the altercation that Lee Hooper said left him so severely injured that he required surgery to remove a blood clot from his brain.Charges Culbertson, 42, filed against the Hoopers were also dismissed.
The confrontation occurred in both Rockingham and Guilford counties, and charges were filed in both counties. To avoid conflicts of interest, district attorneys routinely ask for special prosecutors when lawyers are charged in their districts.
Justice Department spokesman John Bason said the Hoopers asked the department to drop the charges because of the couple's age and because they are ``satisfied with the resolution they worked out with Mr. Culbertson.'
Bason said the department also suspended plans to seek a felony indictment against Culbertson. ``If the agreement between the victims and Mr. Culbertson is fulfilled, we don't anticipate any further action,' he said.
Neither Culbertson and his attorney, nor the Hoopers and theirs, would discuss the settlement, but one person familiar with the case said Culbertson agreed to pay the Hoopers in excess of $200,000. Culbertson, a neighbor of the Hoopers, also agreed to move, the source said.
Culbertson said Thursday that ``It is important to understand that both sides have agreed to resolve their differences ... avoid lengthy litigation and move on with their lives.'
The agreement apparently settles a bizarre confrontation between the Hoopers and Culbertson that began about 9:30 p.m. June 10 on N.C. 150 near their homes.
Each side told a different account.
Culbertson said he pulled his car to the side of the road after the bright lights of a car blinded him. He said the car behind him stopped, too, and that he walked to it. He said he recognized the driver as Lee Hooper. He said he ``politely' asked Hooper to dim his lights and walked back to his car.
Culbertson said Hooper ``gunned his engine and came at me,' and then backed up and drove around his car ``real aggressively.'
Culbertson said he followed the Hoopers into their driveway because he wanted to 'reason' with them' but that Lee Hooper began to hit, kick and curse him. He said he hit Hooper once, in the nose, after Ann Hooper threw water in Culbertson's face, temporarily blinding him.
The Hoopers told a different version.
Lee Hooper said he stopped his car when he saw a car parked in the road and a man standing beside it. He said they recognized Culbertson when he approached their car and said, ``You're breaking the law! You didn't dim your lights! I'll teach you the law!'
Hooper said he drove around Culbertson's car and that Culbertson followed them into their driveway. He said Culbertson began cursing and hitting him when he stepped out of his car.
Ann Hooper said that when she threw water on Culbertson he stopped striking her husband but then hit him again, breaking his nose.
Hooper was treated that night at Annie Penn Memorial Hospital in Reidsville. He returned for a CAT scan about three weeks later after feeling dizzy, he said. Doctors found that he was bleeding from the brain, and he was operated on at Moses Cone Hospital in Greensboro.
Culbertson claimed the Hoopers were trying to defraud him. He said Hooper's brain injury was the result of an accident before the altercation. He said Hooper received a blow to the head, requiring stitches and a brain scan.
Davis North, one of Hooper's lawyers, confirmed that Hooper was hurt about three weeks before the confrontation. ``He stepped on a hoe, and it hit him on the nose.' He said Hooper required stitches. North said he didn't know whether Hooper underwent a CAT scan after he was hit by the hoe.
``But if he did, they didn't find a brain injury. They let him go home.'\ \ Contact Stan Swofford at 373-7351 or firstname.lastname@example.org