News: CJ Exclusives

Ballance Helped Sex Offender

U.S. Rep. Frank Ballance and Warren County Sheriff Johnny Williams helped a woman avoid registering as a North Carolina sex offender as required by law and a federal plea agreement. Subsequent to her conviction as a sex offender, Ballance employed her as an instructor in a substance-abuse program run by an organization of which he was the chairman.

The woman, Lisa Louise Hayes, of Warren County, was employed as a drug treatment specialist at the Federal Correctional Institution in Butner from October 1991 until February 2001. In August 2001 federal authorities arrested her and charged her with engaging in a sexual act with a person who was in official detention and who was under her custodial, supervisory, and disciplinary authority.

Pursuant to a plea agreement in January 2002, she entered a plea of guilty to the sexual abuse. In return for her plea, Hayes agreed to the following: one year of probation, 120 days of home detention, mental health treatment, sex-offender treatment, a $2,500 fine, and registration as a sex offender with the state. N.C. law requires a person who is a state resident with a reportable conviction to maintain registration with the sheriff of the county where the person resides.

Carolina Journal was unable to reach Hayes by phone, but sources say she resides in Warren County and thus would be required to register with the sheriff. Lisa Hayes is married to James K. Hayes, chief of the state probation and parole program in the county.

After leaving her job at Butner, she was hired by the Vance, Granville, Franklin, and Warren Mental Health Authority. The program’s director, Foster Norman, told CJ he was unaware of her problems at Butner and her requirement to register as a sex offender. In addition to that job, she also moonlighted as an instructor for a substance-abuse program run by the John A. Hyman Memorial Youth Foundation in Warrenton.

The foundation, which Balance chairs, has received more than $2 million in state money for substance-abuse programs. But last year, an investigation by CJ and a special review by State Auditor Ralph Campbell uncovered that the foundation’s spending was totally controlled by Balance, D-1st, and often went for items unrelated to substance abuse. Ballance, a former state senator from Warrenton, steered money to the foundation through a committee on which he served. CJ also found that the foundation failed to file required annual reports with the Internal Revenue Service.

Sometime around March 2002, Williams asked the N.C. Attorney General’s Office for a clarification on whether Hayes was required to register as a sex offender, since she was convicted in federal, instead of state court. Ballance, then a state senator in the middle of his campaign for Congress, also asked the Attorney General’s Office the same question in May or June of 2002.

On June 24, 2002, Special Deputy Attorney General John J. Aldridge, III issued the advisory Opinion titled: “sex offender registration predicated on a federal conviction.” The opinion, was in the form of a letter addressed to Williams with a copy marked for Ballance. Aldridge and Senior Deputy Attorney General James J. Coman signed it.

The opinion stated as fact that, “One of the special conditions of supervision was that the defendant register with the State of North Carolina as a sex offender.”

As to the law in general, the opinion concluded that “the clear and unambiguous language of our Registry Program is that all persons convicted of a reportable offense on or after the appropriate effective dates, or release from a penal institution after these dates for a reportable conviction, must register as a sex offender. No exceptions exist in North Carolina’s sex offender registry program either to exclude an otherwise “registerable” offender from the program, or to include an otherwise ‘non-registerable’ offender in the program.”

Information obtained by CJ also indicates that in July 2002 Ballance helped stall the situation further by promising to introduce legislation in the General Assembly to change the criteria for reporting offenses — specifically federal misdemeanor cases such as the Lisa Hayes case. CJ was unable to determine exactly whom Ballance made the promise to, but the information was conveyed to Hayes’s federal probation officer. The legislation was never introduced. Hayes’ probation ended in January 2003. She still has never registered as required.

Reached at his office last week, Williams told CJ that that he merely was asking for clarification from the NC Attorney General’s Office and that it was Ballance who did not want her registered. When told about the Attorney General’s opinion dated June 24, 2002, he said he had not seen it. “You got something I do not have,” he said. He said that U.S. Judge William Webb and the U.S. attorney told him not to pursue it, but would not elaborate. He said he would look into the matter.

Aldridge did not return phone calls to C,J but he referred the matter to the agency’s public information officer, Noelle Talley. CJ asked Talley why her office had not followed up on the issue. Talley had not responded had press time.

CJ reached Ballance’s chief of staff, Corliss James, seeking a comment from Ballance. She said for Ballance the only issue that came before him “was whether or not a person who had been convicted of a misdemeanor, whether or not that provision would have been triggered for such person to be registered as a sex offender.” She would not comment as to why Ballance hired Hayes at the Hyman substance abuse program and would not answer any other questions.

The North Carolina program stipulates that the registration of a sex offender is to maintained for a period of 10 years after the offender is released from a penal institution. If no active term of imprisonment was imposed, registration is to be maintained for a period of 10 years following each conviction for a reportable offense.

The State Bureau of Investigation’s Division of Criminal Information provides each sheriff with forms for registering people. The registration forms require:
the person’s full name, each alias, date of birth, sex, race, height, weight, eye color, hair color, drivers license number, and home address; the type of offense for which the person was convicted, the date of conviction, and the sentence imposed; a current photograph; and person’s fingerprints.

A person required to register who fails to register is guilty of a Class F felony and a probation officer, parole officer, or any other law enforcement officer who is aware of the violation may immediately arrest the person or seek an order for the person’s arrest.

The Department of Justice provides free public access to the statewide registry, including a photograph at http://sbi.jus.state.nc.us/DOJHAHT/SOR.

Read Attorney General’s Opinion at jus.state.nc.us/lr/538.pdf

Don Carrington is associate publisher.