North Carolina has an unusually complex set of assault laws, covering dozens of varieties of assaults, with four levels of misdemeanors and 10 levels of felonies. By comparison, Alabama assault law is a model of simplicity.
But it doesn't take much research into North Carolina's byzantine criminal system to realize this: Someone cut Ted Rollins major slack when he was convicted in 1995 of "simple assault" [General Statutes 14-33(a)] in the beating of his stepson.
Rollins, the CEO of Campus Crest Communities, could have faced a charge of "assault inflicting serious injury" [G.S. 14-33(b)]. A conviction under that statute, which was justified based on our review of the evidence, could have resulted in jail time. But Ted Rollins belongs to one of the nation's wealthiest families--and he was head of a large employer in Franklin County, North Carolina, at the time--so it seems authorities did not want a member of the business elite to spend time behind bars.
Under North Carolina law, previous convictions and the nature of the victim's injuries are key considerations in an assault charge. Rollins probably was in good shape on the issue of previous convictions. But the injuries he inflicted upon his stepson clearly go beyond the boundaries of "simple assault."
According to a North Carolina criminal-law blog, you do not even have to make contact with another person to be charged with simple assault. Putting someone in the position that he fears an unlawful touch meets the standard. From the law blog:
A simple assault is the most basic assault, and is a class 2 misdemeanor. (Misdemeanors are broken into four classes, from A1, the worst, to Class 3, the least serious.) Someone who commits an unlawful touching of another, or who engages in a “show of violence” (raises a hand, but does not hit), is guilty of a simple assault.
According to the statements of an eye witness, Sherry Carroll Rollins, her husband at the time definitely made contact with his stepson, Zac Parrish, and inflicted serious injury. Ms. Rollins stated that Zac Parrish (her son from her first marriage) had a broken nose, with his face a bloody mask from various lacerations and abrasions ("as if he had no eyes"). She also said her son stumbled around after the beating, a sign that he probably had a concussion.
Was this, in fact, a simple assault? Absolutely not, according to the North Carolina law blog:
An assault inflicting serious injury (also defined under N.C.G.S. 14-33) is a class A1 misdemeanor. The injury that the victim suffers can either be a physical injury (causing “great pain” and “suffering”) or can be a “serious mental injury.” The judge or jury ultimately decides whether the injury is serious, and can look to whether the victim was hospitalized, experienced pain, suffered blood loss, or was out of work for a time. Courts have found that a victim who suffered from shards of glass in in the arm had experienced serious injury.
Zac Parrish was taken via ambulance to a hospital emergency room. He suffered pain and blood loss, and as a minor being beaten by his stepfather, surely endured "serious mental injury." Consider Sherry Rollins' words in our interview about the assault. (You can view a video of the interview at the end of this post.)
"If Ted had walked up to Zac and had a conversation, where Zac might have said something that Ted didn't agree with and hit him once or pushed him--or even punched him once--I guess that might have been a simple assault. But from what I saw from the time Ted was on Zac, there was nothing simple about it. It was a beating. . . .
"In the world we live in today, he probably would be classified as a child abuser."
In the world as it was then, Ted Rollins should have been classified as a child abuser, as we explained in a recent post. If Rollins had been charged with the crime he actually committed--assault inflicting serious injury--he would have been looking at possible time behind bars. A Class A1 misdemeanor can be serious business in North Carolina. From another criminal-law blog in the state:
A class A1 is the most serious type of misdemeanor in North Carolina. Examples include Assault on a Female, DWI, and Assault on a Law Enforcement Official. Even for a first offender, a class A1 misdemeanor can be punishable by jail time. The maximum sentence on a Class A1 misdemeanor for a Level III offender (five or more prior convictions) is 150 days in jail.
Five months in jail was unlikely for Rollins since he probably was not a Level III offender. But one or two months was a real possibility. So how did he wind up with probation (no jail time) and a total of $415 in fines and restitution? We can think of only one answer: Ted Rollins comes from a family with lots of money, and that makes him an elite--and elites receive special treatment in our two-tiered "justice system."