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New filing in Wilmington Crime Institute lawsuit alleges culture of sexism at WPD

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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – The latest filings in a lawsuit filed by the former director of Wilmington’s troubled (and now defunct) crime lab show that executives, including the current police chief, have ” It accuses them of harboring “long-simmering gender-based malice.” To her who embodied a toxic “negative attitude towards women” both inside and outside the Wilmington Police Department.

These allegations follow an initial complaint filed in May, in which officials were informed of missing street heroin by the Wilmington Crime Lab, but downplayed the matter, It claimed it had been silent about it as part of a deliberate effort to reduce its numbers. Criminal cases requiring dismissal or reconsideration.

The complaint alleges that after crime lab chemist William Peltzer was fired, the then-director of the lab, Bethany Prigen McGillivray, who went by the name of Bethany Pligen, was asked to testify about the misappropriation of drugs and He claims to have answered his other concerns about Pelzer candidly. Following her testimony, Prigen said senior Wilmington Police, District Attorney’s Office, and U.S. Attorney’s Office officials accused her of fearing her testimony would endanger hundreds of criminal cases. claimed.

These officials subsequently turned against her, and she was effectively fired when the Crime Lab was moved from the Wilmington Police Department to the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office, according to Pligen’s lawsuit. men were hired by the NHCSO, but despite Sheriff Ed McMahon’s comments to the contrary, she was not.

As in the original complaint, Pridgen alleges that the reason for moving the crime lab to the NHCSO was “to get rid of her.” The latest complaint further disputes the “official reason” for the transfer, “lack of funding and personnel,” noting that the city has approved the lease of “specialized forensic testing equipment.”

READ MORE: Lawsuit alleges authorities downplayed Wilmington Crime Lab issue and kept quiet about missing drugs

In fact, the city approved a five-year lease for the gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer in December 2018. This was just four months before the transfer was publicly announced. This means that, at least in Pridgen’s case, the city wasn’t planning on handing over the lab. Pridgen also claims to have met with then-deputy director Alex Sotelo to discuss “expansion plans for the laboratory under a multi-year strategic plan.”

The original complaint was against McMahon. An amended complaint filed earlier this month broadened the scope of the lawsuit to include the City of Wilmington, District Attorney Ben David, WPD Chief Donnie Williams and Deputy Chief David Oyler, implicated in Prigen’s dismissal. It details the alleged methods and motives. from the lab.

Sex Discrimination Claims in WPD

Many of the new allegations revolve around Prigen’s claims that officials discriminated against her based on her gender.

Prygen said “according to a state salary survey,” city officials “as a result [her] WPD makes more money than older male captains. According to Pligen’s complaint, then-chief Ralph Evangelus repeatedly told her over the years, “We couldn’t pay her according to her market research because it upset the male captains.” because I will let you,” he said. Her deputy chief, Donnie Williams, and another chief executive, David Oyler, who oversaw the transfer of the crime lab from the WPD to her NHCSO.

According to Pridgen, Evangelous didn’t want to “castrate” these top male employees. She also alleges that both Williams and Euler had a “well-known grudge” against her, with Euler making “unsubstantiated threats of possible felony” against her in 2017. claimed to have done [was] A woman who played a leading role in the private sector as the director of the research institute. “

Other WPD cases speak more broadly to WPD culture, according to the complaint. Pridgen claims one of her female employees filed her HR complaint, which was dismissed by her now retired assistant chief, Jim Varrone. as a reason not to substantiate the complaint. On another occasion, Pridgen said that Varone didn’t want to upset her male employees by taking a woman there when they were facing possible disciplinary action against her, so she took her out of a personnel action meeting. claimed to have excluded

Other comments were from the top, according to Pridgen. She claimed that then-Chief Evangelus told her and her female colleagues to change their behavior towards men, saying that “things will be easier”. He said he didn’t like demoting or firing male employees because they had “families to feed.”

Pridgen claims that “negative attitudes towards women” extend beyond the WPD, citing examples such as an investigator in the DA’s office saying her women should work for CSI. . Priggen claimed that both she and another female candidate applied to crime labs now under NHCSO administration, and both were overlooked due to less qualified male candidates.

Because they may violate both the North Carolina Constitution and federal law, these claims may be used to defend the “sovereign immunity” traditionally set by state and local government agencies. I have. Sovereign Immunity protects states and, to a lesser extent, local governments from lawsuits. However, the court ruled that this immunity is not a defense to claims that individual rights under the State of North Carolina or the U.S. Federal Constitution have been violated.

Allegations Against Ben David

Pligen doesn’t blame District Attorney Ben David for the kind of gender-based resentment she said Oiler and Williams have.His office, and others acting in concert with them, deliberately induced and encouraged the City to exit [Pridgen] discredit her testimony and make her a scapegoat with the explicit goal of repairing or sanitizing her work. [Peltzer]”

David, she claims, acted not out of resentment, but to protect prosecution of a drug case handled by Pelzer. claim.

But Prigen claims David didn’t put it there.

Prigen is now working as an expert witness in forensic toxicology, alleging that the District Attorney’s Office filed a motion to disqualify her based on “false and misleading allegations.”

These allegedly include the prosecutor’s claim that her title of “forensic scientist” meant that she could not testify about forensic toxicology. , attempted to denounce her expertise, despite her current employment in a related field, and her 11 years of experience attesting to David’s office as a forensic chemist.

Prigen also alleges that David participated in efforts to remove him from the North Carolina Legal and Scientific Advisory Board, a position David recommended to Pregen in 2012.

complicated case

As is the general policy of all government agencies, all defendants have declined to comment on pending lawsuits. No claim. District Attorney David confirmed that his office will be represented in the lawsuit by the North Carolina Attorney General, but declined to comment on the content of the lawsuit. We have declined a request for comment due to ongoing or pending litigation.

It is common for defendants in these types of cases to file motions to dismiss, and the City of Wilmington, along with other officials, may claim “sovereign immunity.”

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