Friday, August 19, 2022

County Clerk’s office says it blocked payment to FBI fugitive for decade, says FBI can seize money

Acting in a judicial role in the land partition case, the clerk says she was prohibited from calling the FBI on one party in the agreement

Assata Shukar, born Joanne Chesimard, escaped prison after being convicted of the 'cold-blooded murder of a New Jersey state trooper,' according to the FBI. (Port City Daily photo | COURTESY FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION)
Assata Shukar, aka Joanne Chesimard, escaped prison after being convicted of the ‘cold-blooded murder of a New Jersey state trooper,’ according to the FBI. (Port City Daily photo | COURTESY FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION)

WILMINGTON – In early April, a judge ordered the New Hanover County Superior Court Clerk to pay over $15,000 to FBI fugitive and “most wanted terrorist” Assata Shakur, aka Joanne Chesimard; apparently this payment was made after the clerk’s office spent nearly a decade trying to block funds being paid to Shakur.

Shakur was paid $15,351.39 as part of a land deal between a developer and the heirs to a parcel of land near Freeman Park. Payments to the heirs were mediated by the Superior Court of New Hanover County.

READ MORE: County court brokers land deal, cuts $15,000 check to one of FBI’s most wanted

Calls to the Clerk of Court Jan G. Kennedy’s office seeking comment about the payment were not returned last week. Email questions were also sent to Kennedy’s office on Friday, April 13. Those were forwarded to the Special Proceedings Division by Spokeswoman Sandy Gerstenmier.

On Monday, Kennedy said the clerk’s office has handled the land deal since 2008. Kennedy said the clerk’s office was well aware of Shakur’s identity from the beginning of the case, and – because of her status as an FBI fugitive and “most wanted terrorist” – has blocked payment to Shakur for the better part of a decade.

“Since this petition was filed, until just a few weeks ago, the clerk’s office has denied every motion to pay money to Assata Shakur,” Kennedy said.

According to Kennedy, a recent motion by Shakur’s lawyer Lennox Hinds changed things. Previously Kennedy’s office had handled all the motions, but Hinds’ request moved things formally to Superior Court, where it was ruled on by a judge for the first time since the case started in 2008.

“But if I had any inkling of her whereabouts, if any of my staff had any inkling, I would have contacted (the FBI) immediately.” — Clerk of Superior Court Jan G. Kennedy

Craven County Superior Court Judge Joshua Willey ruled on Hinds’ motion, which redirected payment from Shakur to  her sister.

“It was a request to make payment to (Beverly Goins), to Shakur’s sister, not her, so Judge Willey was ruling on a legally different issue,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy did not criticize Willey’s decision, saying he was ruling within the law, but she did express distress that the money had been paid out to Shakur; Kennedy said that after 10 years of preventing money from going to “a convicted cop-killer,” the situation was “saddening” – even if it was legal.

Judge Willey has still not responded to emails and phone calls seeking comment placed since Wednesday, April 11. New Hanover County Chief Superior Court Judge Jay Hockenburry responded to say he was not aware of the case and had never been involved.

Kennedy also addressed the issue of why the FBI was not notified by clerk’s office. She said that, acting in a judicial role in the land partition case, she could not also reach out to law enforcement about one of the parties.

Check out the court documents we used in reporting this story here

“But if I had any inkling of her whereabouts, if any of my staff had any inkling, I would have contacted (the FBI) immediately. If she walked into my courtroom, the first thing I would do is have her taken into custody,” Kennedy said.

According to Kennedy, the FBI can still work with the United States Attorney’s Office to seize the money from Beverly Goins, Shakur’s sister.

Whether federal authorities will act to block Goins from giving the money to her sister in Cuba, or seize it outright, remains unknown. An FBI spokesperson said only the U.S. Attorney’s Office could make that kind of decision.

Don Connelly, law enforcement coordinator for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of North Carolina, said – following Department of Justice policy – the attorney’s office does “not confirm or deny the existence of an ongoing investigation.”


Send comments and tips to Benjamin Schachtman at ben@localvoicemedia.com, @pcdben on Twitter, and (910) 538-2001.

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