By Sarah Nagem
A detention officer with the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office who was charged in connection with a suspect who was booked and released from jail under a false name was previously suspended from his job three times, officials say.
Warren Phillips, 50, was one of three detention officers charged in April. Phillips and the other officers – Jackie Hunt and Tina Jones – are accused of knowingly allowing a man who was arrested in March on drug charges to be released on bond under the name of the man’s brother.
The Border Belt Independent submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Act to the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office to obtain details of the officers’ employment. Hunt, who was hired in 2010, and Jones, who began in 2016, had not previously faced displicplanary action, according to the sheriff’s office.
Phillips, who was hired in 2001 and promoted to sergeant in 2011, was disciplined three times – in 2011 (eight months after his promotion), 2015 and 2020, the sheriff’s office said in an email. On each occasion, Phillips received “written disciplinary action resulting in suspension.”
The sheriff’s office did not respond to follow-up questions about why Phillips was suspended on each occasion, or if the office has a policy on the number of suspensions a detention officer can receive before being fired.
In a Facebook post on April 20, the day the officers were arrested, Robeson County Sheriff Burnis Wilkins said he “would not tolerate foolishness.”
“These officers are held to a higher standard and took an Oath of Office to uphold the rules, regulations and laws of this state,” Wilkins said in the post. “It’s a proven fact that I will not tolerate foolishness and with the investigative work of Detectives and our Professional Standards Division Investigators, we were able to bring this to a quick conclusion.”
The Robeson County Multi-Jurisdictional Gun and Drug Task Force was patrolling in Rowland on March 25 when deputies arrested James Hunt Jr., the sheriff’s office said. He was charged with possessing drugs, driving with a revoked license and carrying a concealed weapon after a traffic stop.
At the time of his arrest, officials said, James Hunt Jr. “fraudulently” identified himself using his brother’s name.
James Hunt Jr. was processed into the jail by the three officers and was “bonded out under the false name despite the officers knowing (his) true identity,” the sheriff’s office said.
Three days later, on March 28, investigators discovered the man’s real name and obtained arrest warrants to charge him with identity theft and resisting, delaying and obstructing justice. He was taken into custody on April 16, the sheriff’s office said.
Phillips, Jackie Hunt and Jones were charged with felony conspiracy to identity theft, aiding and abetting and obstruction of justice. Each was given a $500,000 bond.
Their employment with the sheriff’s office ended on April 20, the day of their arrests, according to Maj. Damien McLean, public information officer.
Another officer charged
In May, another detention officer with the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office was charged in an unrelated case regarding cellphones that were smuggled into the jail.
Stacey Hunt, 33, was charged with felony conspiracy, providing a phone/electronic device to an inmate and felony dissemination of obscenity, according to the sheriff’s office.
Hunt began work with the sheriff’s office in January 2020 and did not receive any disciplinary actions during her time of employment, McLean said in response to the request under the Freedom of Information Act. Her employment ended May 25, the day after she was charged.
Johnathan Mack, 26, who was being held on first-degree murder charges, was found with a cellphone on May 24, the sheriff’s office said. He was then charged with felony conspiracy and possession of a phone/communication device by an inmate.
Stacey Hunt was jailed under a $50,000 bond.
Follow Sarah Nagem on Twitter: @sarah_nagem