Following a months-long investigation, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) has cleared Durham city council member Monique Holsey-Hyman of allegations of extortion and campaign finance violations, Durham district attorney Satana Deberry announced today in a letter to city officials.

“There is no probable cause to pursue charges against Council Member Holsey-Hyman,” Deberry wrote. “In fact, the SBI was unable to discover any credible allegations against her at all.”

The probe was opened in late March after a local developer—whom Durham mayor Elaine O’Neal later publicly identified as Jarrod Edens—accused Holsey-Hyman of soliciting a campaign contribution in exchange for her “yes” vote on a pending project.

Holsey-Hyman, who was appointed to fill former city council member Charlie Reece’s vacant seat in 2022 and is currently running for reelection, “willingly answered questions” during the investigation and provided the SBI with documentation of her communications with Edens, according to Deberry.

Special Agent N. Deming, who headed the probe, found no evidence of extortion or misconduct after examining text messages between Holsey-Hyman and Edens.

“Holsey-Hyman remained courteous, respectful, and forthcoming during a very stressful set of  circumstances,” Deberry wrote. “Jarrod Edens, on the other hand, avoided every attempt SA Deming made to interview him.”

Edens did not respond to Deming’s repeated phone calls and messages, according to Deberry. When Deming finally managed to get Edens on the phone, the developer “agreed to an interview but did not show up.” Deming subsequently agreed to accept a written statement from Edens in lieu of an in-person interview—an accommodation requested by Edens’s attorney, Deberry wrote—but Edens “ultimately failed to provide such a written statement.”

In May, while the investigation was underway, Edens’s annexation application was approved in a 4-3 vote by the city council. 

“After the vote, Edens showed no interest in either repeating or pursuing his initial allegations,” Deberry wrote. 

The SBI has also debunked claims that Holsey-Hyman solicited a city employee to perform work for her re-election campaign while the employee was on duty, according to Deberry.

The employee “volunteered information” to Holsey-Hyman that Holsey-Hyman “did not request either directly or indirectly,” Deberry wrote, adding that the employee has “received a written reprimand for providing the information.”

Finally, the SBI found no evidence that other council members colluded to frame Holsey-Hyman, Deberry wrote.

Though now disproven, the allegations against Holsey-Hyman spurred an era of unprecedented discord on the dais. 

After council member Jillian Johnson proposed a resolution—that later failed—to formally censure Holsey-Hyman on the allegations of soliciting campaign work from a city employee during a March work session, council member DeDreana Freeman, who is currently running for mayor, was recorded defending Holsey-Hyman by way of a profane verbal attack on mayor pro tem Mark-Anthony Middleton. Minutes later, Freeman also allegedly assaulted O’Neal and council member Leonardo Williams while attempting to attack Middleton. 

And in June, O’Neal, Freeman, and Holsey-Hyman pushed city attorney Kim Rehburg to help them identify Wikipedia editors who had published content about the extortion allegations, and about Freeman’s alleged assault, to the crowdsourced encyclopedia.

The SBI probe’s results come one day before early voting opens for Durham’s municipal primary elections.

Read DeBerry’s letter clearing Holsey-Hyman below.


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