Sheriff charged with encouraging killing of deputy over racist tape

The deputy planned to disclose to authorities an audio recording of Wilkins using "racially offensive language," the indictment says.
Sheriff Brindell B. Wilkins, Jr.
Sheriff Brindell B. Wilkins Jr. of Granville County, N.C.County of Granville

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By Minyvonne Burke

A North Carolina sheriff is accused of urging the murder of a former deputy who planned on going public with an audio recording of the sheriff using racist language, prosecutors said.

Granville County Sheriff Brindell Wilkins was indicted by a grand jury Monday on two counts of felony obstruction of justice following a 10-month investigation that involved the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

In August 2014, Wilkins was allegedly recorded encouraging someone he knew to "murder" former Deputy Joshua Freeman, according to the indictment.

Freeman planned to disclose to authorities an audio recording of Wilkins using "racially offensive language," the document states. The indictment does not reveal what was on the alleged recording, and Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman did not immediately return NBC News' request for comment.

In the August 2014 conversation, Wilkins allegedly told the person he was talking to that "the only way you gonna stop him is to kill him" and discussed ways to get away with the crime.

The sheriff was indicted after a recording of the conversation was turned over to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.

The indictment states that Wilkins "failed to properly execute his duties because of his personal animosity towards Joshua Freeman."

Wilkins did not return a request for comment on Tuesday.

James Wrenn, attorney for Granville County, told NBC News in a statement Tuesday that the county Board of Commissioners has been notified of the charges and is "monitoring the situation."

"Like all people charged with a criminal offense, Sheriff Wilkins is entitled to a presumption of innocence," the statement says.

The North Carolina Sheriff's Association's executive vice president, Eddie Caldwell, said in a statement, "The allegations in the indictments are extremely troubling. We have confidence that our criminal justice system will resolve them appropriately, according to law."

Wilkins appeared before a magistrate on Monday and was released on a $20,000 unsecured bond. His first court appearance is Oct. 9 in Granville County.

D.A. Lorrin Freeman said Wilkins' office is also being investigated for "accounting practices and controlled substance interdiction efforts." That investigation is pending, Freeman said.