NEW HANOVER COUNTY — A local business owner at the center of accusations in a public forum appeared before a judge Friday to voluntarily accept two citizen-initiated warrants filed against him in January.
Edward Teach owner Gary Sholar has been charged with two counts of assault on a female and two counts of communicating threats, as filed by Asia Norris and Paige Grant on Jan. 6, 2024. Both charges are misdemeanors.
North Carolina is one of the few states that allow self-initiated warrants, meaning citizens can go before a magistrate with their claims to decide whether a warrant should be served.
“It’s basically the victim is playing their own investigator per se,” according to New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Jerry Brewer.
Brewer said Saturday the case is in Wilmington Police Department’s jurisdiction and NHCSO would only investigate if the charges were felonies. WPD told Port City Daily multiple times in the last few weeks charges were not filed against Sholar and an investigation was not underway.
Sholar was not booked at the New Hanover County Detention Center, though Brewer confirmed the business owner’s acceptance of the warrants “technically is an arrest.”
Since Sholar didn’t have any previous charges and the ones he faced currently were not felonious, Sholar didn’t have to be processed with a mugshot or fingerprinting, Brewer added. According to Sholar’s lawyer, Thomas Varum, he was released on a $500 unsecured bond, with an anticipated court date to come in March.
Charges were filed following an incident that took place at Edward Teach Brewery on Nov. 16. Norris is a local musician who performed at the brewery that night and garnered attention from a viral post her mother, Madonna Nash, pinned to Facebook on Dec. 29, 2023. It claimed Norris and a friend in attendance — though doesn’t name anyone specifically — were on the receiving end of threatening and aggressive behavior exhibited by Sholar.
PCD attempted to reach out to Norris and Grant, as well as Nash, on multiple occasions without response.
Nash’s post alleged Sholar was visibly intoxicated and grabbed her daughter without consent to sing along while she was performing, but knocked the musician off balance. When Norris’ friend attempted to step in to stop the matter, the incident escalated, according to both Nash’s post and ET’s own account of the incident, published on its social media page. Nash claimed Sholar was drinking in the establishment and behind the bar, yelled “Get the F**CK out!” and “this is my place,” as well as threw chairs that hit patrons.
Sholar and ET have countered the claims and secured affidavits by multiple witnesses who say Nash’s post is exaggerated, as shown in a lawsuit Edward Teach executed against Nash for defamation on Jan. 31. Sholar has admitted to drinking that night but not behind the bar, exchanging harsh words with Norris’ friend, and attempting to sing with the musician after he touched her on the shoulder to get her attention.
Varnum told Port City Daily his partner Edwin L. West III — with Wilmington’s Brooks Pierce law firm — will be leading Sholar’s defense.
“None of the many other witnesses to the verbal exchange say they saw any kind of assault or heard any threats. Two neutral patrons who witnessed the incident have signed sworn statements attesting that Gary assaulted no one — period,” West wrote in a statement provided to Port City Daily.
‘Disposed of’ and self-initiated warrants
A warrant against Sholar first appeared in the New Hanover County court’s system in mid-January. PCD obtained documents related to it, showing it was issued on Dec. 31, 2023, but it was disposed of as “never to be served” on Jan. 6, 2024.
The disposed warrant charged David Gary Sholar with communicating threats and assault on a female from an offense date of Nov. 16, 2023. Asia Norris was the only witness listed on the disposed warrant, issued by an unnamed criminal magistrate — an unelected official nominated for office by the clerk of superior court and who is authorized to consider evidence.
According to the NHC criminal court, a “never to be served” determination is only used when there is a clerical error, the wrong person was charged or incorrect verbiage was used. The warrant didn’t have a magistrate signature, which a worker in the criminal court said was “peculiar.”
She asked not to be named but told PCD a few weeks ago the Dec. 31 warrant was disposed of due to the magistrate realizing the “charging language” wasn’t “exactly like it needed to be”; it required replacement with two processes for separate victims.
“Same victims, same offense dates, nothing changed except for a little bit of verbiage for the charging language,” she said.
The “never to be served” warrant was removed from the court system the day after PCD located it. According to the criminal court worker, it was to ensure it didn’t seem like the defendant had duplicate charges against him once the new warrants were issued.
“If you ran a background check, you don’t want it to seem like they’ve got like four, or five, six counts,” she said.
Chief district court judge Julius Corpening told PCD on Jan. 23 with self-initiated warrants the magistrate hears the complainant’s side and assesses probable cause.
“The magistrate swears the citizen to their statements and makes a decision to issue the process or not,” he said.
A self-initiated warrant may be granted if the magistrate determines there is enough evidence, if a law enforcement investigation of the alleged offense would cause a “substantial burden” on the person filing the warrant, or the magistrate finds the accused individual should be taken into custody.
Magistrate B. Watkins signed off on Norris’ and Grant’s warrants. They also were signed by New Hanover County Deputy Sheriff J.K. Mintz; Brewer said a law enforcement agent had to formally serve the warrant and Mintz was not there to corroborate the witnesses’ testimony.
Both warrants claim threats were made “in a manner and under circumstances which would cause a reasonable person to believe that the threat was likely carried out and the person threatened believed that the threat would be carried out.”
It’s not explicit about what the communication of threats were.
Norris’ warrant alleges under assault on a female that the defendant “put his arm around complainant and she lost her balance.” Grant’s exchange details the defendant “flung a chair … after grabbing it from her hand; causing an injury to her hand.”
Varnum submitted a motion to have both warrants dismissed in an emergency hearing Friday. He asked the criminal district court to replace them with a criminal summons, which is less severe in that the accused party faces criminal allegations instead of formal charges.
The motion put forth said the initiators did not meet appropriate standards to justify a warrant. North Carolina state statute G.S. 15A-304(b)(3) indicates citizens seeking a warrant are supposed to be accompanied by a disinterested witness or law enforcement agent to corroborate their testimony.
“Neither complaining witness provided any support for the warrant other than their own testimony,” the motion claims. “I.e., there was no disinterested, corroborating witness to the alleged acts.”
Also included in the motion were five affidavits filed from ET’s defamation suit against Nash. They’re signed by ET employees — Noah Powell, Logan Chaucer and Adam Young — and two people who were in the bar the night of Nov. 16, Christine Sprow and Phillip Kunzelman. It cited the defendant has opened a civil defamation lawsuit in Brunswick County Superior Court against Nash, who wasn’t at the bar and “admitted having no personal knowledge about what happened.”
The motion further argues the complainants didn’t file a report about the incident with law enforcement and only submitted a request for the warrants after Nash’s Facebook post went viral, 43 days following the incident. It added Sholar, a former officer with Wallace Police Department, is not a flight risk.
Corpening denied the attorney’s request:
“The Court, having considered the Motion and supporting materials, as well as arguments of Defendant’s counsel and the State, finds and concludes that the Court is without the authority to grant the relief requested in the motion.”
Varnum told PCD the denial was based on procedural grounds due to jurisdiction.
“He didn’t have the authority to do it,” Varnum said. “Not that it was wrong — that we were wrong — that this was procedurally and statutorily defective.”
PCD reached out to Corpening for clarification but didn’t hear back by press and will update upon response.
According to West, self-initiated warrants are not a foolproof process and “easily abused.”
“It’s vital for the public to understand that in North Carolina anyone can obtain a self-initiated arrest warrant based only on what they say happened,” he said. “These charges are another chapter of that ongoing defamation campaign. Gary looks forward to the truth coming out in court.”
Motion to dismiss warrants from Brooks Pierce law firm:
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