12/08/05 — Ex-magistrate will serve probation on charge

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Ex-magistrate will serve probation on charge

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on December 8, 2005 1:49 PM

Former magistrate Gilbert Owens has been placed on probation after pleading guilty in Wayne County Superior Court to possession of cocaine.

Judge Jerry Braswell, who had appointed Owens to the magistrate's job, also ordered that Owens write a letter of apology for his behavior to the magistrate's office within 30 days as part of his probation.

Owens resigned his position in June 2004, about six months before his two-year term was to expire. He was arrested about two months later, on Aug. 6, 2004, by Mount Olive police and charged with the felony offense.

Owens, 51, of Tarheel Drive, Mount Olive, was sentenced to four to five months in prison. The term was suspended on condition that he complete 24 months of supervised probation and 150 hours of community service, pay a $750 fine and court costs and submit to random searches and drug tests. Braswell also ordered that the drugs be destroyed.

Owens' appointment was one of several controversial new hirings for the job in 2003. He had been convicted of several misdemeanor offenses, including four bad checks, two speeding violations and four seat-belt tickets.

A charge of driving while his license was revoked was reduced in Sampson County District Court to no operator's license. He also was convicted in Sampson County of possession of drug paraphernalia, but the charge was dismissed in Superior Court.

When Owens' criminal record was revealed, Braswell said he was not concerned about the misdemeanor convictions.

At the same time, two other veteran magistrates, Bob Holmes and Bob Forsythe, were not reappointed. The other appointee, Nan Crisman, resigned because she did not have a college degree or the required experience.

Mrs. Crisman was replaced by S.M. Jordan, and Owens later was replaced by Patricia Williams.

Magistrates are nominated by the clerk of court, supervised by the chief District Court judge and appointed by the resident Superior Court judge.

Magistrates are the lowest-ranking officials in the judicial system. They establish the terms of release for newly arrested defendants -- usually secured or unsecured bonds or written promises. They also hold Small Claims Court and conduct weddings.