STANLY COUNTY, NC (FOX 46 WJZY) - Does a "courthouse mafia" exist in Stanly County? Campaign signs staked across the community are alleging it, and asking for voters to stop it.
"I want the Stanly County Courthouse Mafia stopped," Stanly County resident Terry Pennington said.
Pennington, who is not running for election, is campaigning against district court judge candidate, Thai Vang.
Vang is the current Chief Assistant District Attorney in Stanly County.
Pennington's signs read, "STOP Courthouse Mafia. Vote NO to Thai Vang. Not Good for Stanly County." He's been placing them across the county.
Pennington has a history of run-ins with law enforcement and the judicial system in Stanly County, including pending charges for assault, inflicting serious injury, injury to personal property and communicating threats.
The charges stem from a 2017 incident between Pennington and a former business associate. The case was, initially, investigated by the Locust Police Department and the case was closed, on Locust's end, due to a lack of evidence.
The Stanly County D.A.'s Office was still able to get indictments.
"It's not called Stanly County Courthouse Mafia just by us," Pennington said.
Pennington is referring to North Carolina State Representative, Justin Burr, who back in 2012, referred to some in Stanly County as being part of a "courthouse mafia."
Pennington's signs have continued to disappear so he camped out in his car and was able to catch a woman, on camera, named Sandra Lorch Jordan, allegedly, stealing them.
Stealing campaign signs is listed as a class III misdemeanor crime but the Stanly County Sheriff's Office refused to charge her.
"They refused to arrest her or charge her and they had her with the signs, in her car, in her yard," Pennington said.
The Sheriff's Office told FOX 46 they did not believe the campaign signs were legitimate since Pennington, himself, is not running for election.
Stanly County Board of Elections said that is not the case.
"It's not a typical campaign sign but it is certainly allowed by law," Director of Elections Kimberly Blackwelder said.
The Sheriff's Office declined FOX 46's request for an on-camera interview. Since FOX 46 began investigating, the magistrate's office allowed Pennington to take out charges against Jordan.
The district attorney's office at the center of Pennington's "mafia" claims will now be forced to prosecute his case.
The D.A.'s office did not respond when asked about further proceedings.
Pennington recording deputies when they visited the home of Jordan (the woman accused of stealing the signs) where one deputy was heard saying they would not charge her because they got a call from the D.A.'s office.
"They're not going to do nothing for me because I'm standing against courthouse mafia," Pennington said.
District Attorney T. Lynn Clodfelter issued FOX 46 a statement about the signs that refer to Vang being a part of a courthouse mafia.
"This is a ridiculous and outrageous allegation against a very fine Chief Assistant District Attorney with whom I am proud to work and support in the coming election," Clodfelter said. "Unfortunately, I am unable to grant your request for an interview with Mr. Vang at this time regarding Mr. Pennington because Mr. Pennington presently has charges pending in Stanly County Criminal Superior Court..."
Pennington was at the center of a FOX 46 investigation back in February when he blew the whistle on former Stanfield Town Council member Jason Smith, current Oakboro Commissioner Earnest Broadway and others playing illegal poker at a bar next to the Stanfield Police Department.
Pennington, recently, recording current Stanfield council member Rick Williams approaching his campaign signs.
Words were exchanged and Williams appeared to mention that he works for the S.B.I.
The S.B.I. said that's not the case and it's now investigating Williams for, allegedly, falsely identifying himself as an agent.
Pennington said he will continue to stake his campaign signs through Tuesday's elections.
FOX 46 went to Jordan's residence to ask about the stolen sign claims but no one answered the door.