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Case of accused wife abuser turns 8 with no end in sight

Leonard Schalow Leonard Schalow

The state of North Carolina v. Leonard Paul Schalow will turn eight years old next month with no end in sight.

The case has climbed up and down numerous times from the trial court to the N.C. Court of Appeals and state Supreme Court and, on Dec. 17, was sent back to the Court of Appeals in a state Supreme Court ruling that came down in favor of former District Attorney Greg Newman. The Supreme Court reversed the appeals court’s decision in favor of Schalow’s motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that Newman had mounted a vindictive prosecution against him. But the high court also sent back to the lower court the defendant’s motion to dismiss the conviction on double jeopardy grounds, saying that still needs to be resolved.
The case had been one of three instances of possible “willful misconduct” that a judge considered in a hearing last April on Newman’s removal as district attorney. Although Judge Robert C. Ervin cited legal errors Newman made in his prosecution of Schalow, he ruled that the prosecutor’s actions in the Schalow case did not constitute grounds for the D.A.’s removal. Ervin did oust Newman from office, however, on grounds involving another case that was the opposite of Newman’s persistent and aggressive pursuit of an alleged serial child abuser. Erwin ruled that Newman committed willful misconduct in the case of a child-sex abuse defendant by failing to notify the victim of a plea deal that gave the accused man a lenient sentence with no jail time and lied to a judge about whether the victim and her family wanted to be heard.
Newman has described Schalow’s alleged abuse of his wife, Erin, as particularly brutal and cruel, citing the fact that the abuse took place in front of their young son. Married in 1997, the defendant and Erin Henry Schalow moved to North Carolina in 2010. The state presented evidence at trial to show that the unemployed Schalow committed brutal acts of violence on an almost daily basis that resulted in multiple injuries to Erin, a hospice nurse. In February 2014, Schalow was charged with 14 counts of felony child abuse and later indicted by a Henderson County grand jury on a charge of attempted first-degree murder. After a Superior Court judge dismissed the murder charge as “fatally flawed” — the indictment failed to charge “malice aforethought” as required under state law — Newman obtained a second indictment on the same charge, this time with the required “malice” language. At that point, Schalow’s attorney began a long road of appeals seeking dismissal of the charge on the grounds that double jeopardy barred the state from re-indicting his client.
After the trial court and Court of Appeals denied Schalow’s double-jeopardy motion, he was convicted in November 2015 of attempted first-degree murder and sentenced to a prison term of 13 years, one month, to 16 years, nine months in prison. Schalow appealed the conviction at the Court of Appeals, again on double jeopardy grounds, this time successfully.
In March 2018, Newman obtained new indictments again, this time on three counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury, two counts of assault inflicting serious bodily injury and one count of assault by strangulation. Four months later, Schalow filed a motion to dismiss, again alleging double jeopardy plus vindictive prosecution grounds.
“Regarding the vindictive prosecution claim, defendant argued the State indicted him because of his successful appeal from the attempted murder judgment,” the Supreme Court said in its ruling three weeks ago. The defense attorney also cited Newman’s statement to the Times-News that he had “a plan in place” to continue the prosecution, declaring that he would “do everything that I can to see that [Schalow] remains in custody for as long as possible.”
After a trial court denied Schalow’s motion to dismiss the new charges, the Court of Appeals reversed the lower court, upholding his vindictive prosecution argument. The state Supreme Court disagreed. It reversed the call, saying that Newman’s comments did not indicate vindictiveness.
“Although the prosecution obtained additional charges, the stated purpose was to ensure defendant was punished for his criminal conduct and to obtain ‘a comparable sentence’ to the original one — not a substantially more severe sentence in retaliation for the appeal,” the opinion by Justice Robin Hudson said. “Thus, to the extent that the public statements of the prosecutor evidence any discernable motive to the re-prosecution attributable to the State, it is to punish defendant for his crimes and not for the successful exercise of his right of appeal.”
Although Newman in an interview depicted the unanimous Supreme Court ruling as a clear victory for his handling of the Schalow prosecution, the case is not over yet. Because the Court of Appeals declined to take up the question of whether Schalow had been subjected to a barred double-jeopardy prosecution, the Supreme Court remanded his appeal back to the appeals court to consider the defense’s double jeopardy claim.
According to the N.C. Department of Public Safety, Schalow, 54, was admitted to Mountain View Correctional Institute in Spruce Pine on Nov. 20, 2015, after his attempted murder conviction, and transferred back to the Henderson County jail on March 23, 2018.