Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Update: Prosecutor reviewed potential child abuse incident without knowing parent was Wilmington police officer 

The District Attorney's office reviewed the allegations against a suspect in a potential child abuse case without being informed he was a Wilmington Police Department officer, a spokesperson said. (Port City Daily photo / File)
The District Attorney’s office reviewed the allegations against a suspect in a potential child abuse case without being informed he was a Wilmington Police Department officer, a spokesperson said. (Port City Daily photo / File)

WILMINGTON — Earlier this month, authorities responded to a 911 call and found the 8-year-old daughter of a Wilmington Police Department officer had been left, naked and alone, locked in the back of a car outside a bar and restaurant. The district attorney’s office says the case was reviewed without the knowledge that the potential suspect was a law enforcement officer.

Related: Internal Affairs investigating Wilmington officer who allegedly left his naked child locked in a car while dining

A 911 call was placed on Saturday, October 19, around 5:45 p.m. after employees of the Ogden Tap Room noticed the daughter of Willmington Police Department (WPD) Lieutenant Matthew Malone in a car parked behind the restaurant. The young girl told the caller that she needed to use the bathroom, but had been ordered by her father not to leave the car.

Malone and his wife had apparently placed their daughter in the car after her clothes became wet, possibly while playing on a ‘bouncy house’ set up for the bar’s annual Oktoberfest celebration; Malone then returned to the bar, leaving his daughter wrapped in a towel.

Two deputies from the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office (NHCSO) were dispatched and interviewed several people at the scene, including Malone. Ultimately, NHCSO chose not to press charges against Malone, but not before consulting the District Attorney’s office.

The incident was presented to a prosecutor at the District Attorney’s office who specializes in child abuse cases, according to Samantha Dooies, assistant to District Attorney Ben David.

The prosecutor considered both general criminal activity and specifically the North Carolina statutory definition of misdemeanor child abuse, which reads:

§ 14-318.2. Child abuse a misdemeanor.

(a) Any parent of a child less than 16 years of age, or any other person providing care to or supervision of such child, who inflicts physical injury, or who allows physical injury to be inflicted, or who creates or allows to be created a substantial risk of physical injury, upon or to such child by other than accidental means is guilty of the Class A1 misdemeanor of child abuse.

(b) The Class A1 misdemeanor of child abuse is an offense additional to other civil and criminal provisions and is not intended to repeal or preclude any other sanctions or remedies.

(c) A parent who abandons an infant less than seven days of age pursuant to G.S. 14-322.3 shall not be prosecuted under this section for any acts or omissions related to the care of that infant.

While the fact that Malone is a high-ranking, long-serving police officer — hired in July, 2002, and currently making $75,000 annually as a lieutenant — prompted speculation on social media that he had received special treatment, Dooies specifically noted that the prosecutor who reviewed the case did so without the knowledge that the suspect was a law enforcement officer.

It is worth noting that while the District Attorney’s office does frequently consult with local law enforcement on cases, the ultimate decision to arrest — or not arrest — comes solely from those law enforcement agencies in concert with a magistrate or judge, in this case NHCSO; arrest warrants are issued after law enforcement requests them from magistrates, a decision in which the DA’s office has no role.

After an arrest, the DA’s office can choose to proceed with pressing charges or drop them.

While the Internal Affairs Unit of the WPD’s Professional Standards Division is still investigating Malone’s conduct, he has not been placed on either administrative or unpaid leave, according to employment records provided Tuesday.

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

Related Articles