A restraining order placed on McDowell Register of Deeds Tonia Hampton has been dismissed in McDowell County District Court.
On March 5, presiding judge Thomas Brittain Jr. determined that a temporary restraining order placed on Hampton by Top Fuel Grill owner Donita Plemmons of Old Fort did not meet the requirements of an emergency order and was dismissed in court.
The restraining order had been filed on Feb. 26 following an alleged vulgar phone call and threats to sue made three days earlier by Hampton.
Representing herself, Plemmons addressed the court on the situation, claiming she had commented on a Facebook post related to this year’s upcoming – and locally contested – N.C. Gold Festival. In this post, Plemmons said she made the remark, “In the two years we (Top Fuel Grill) have been in business, only one member of the Board of Alderman has come in to eat at our restaurant.”
Subsequently, Plemmons said she received a forwarded text message by Hampton from a third party, threatening to sue her for slander, bashing and “deformation.” Later that day at 2:28 p.m., it was alleged that Top Fuel Grill, owned by Plemmons and her husband Jeff, received a phone call from Hampton at the Register of Deeds office, laced with vulgarities and verbal attacks. The phone call, according to Plemmons, prompted the decision to file for the restraining order.
Plemmons also argued that growing frustrations between herself and Hampton had existed prior to the alleged phone call.
During her recounting of the events, multiple objections were made by defense attorney Larry McMahon of Morganton, arguing that the details of the text message could not be fully addressed to the court without the person who forwarded the text being present to stand as a witness, calling her statements “hearsay.”
Jeff Plemmons, the plaintiff’s husband, took the stand and was asked to corroborate the phone call.
“Everything that my wife said happened,” said Jeff Plemmons, who also confirmed that the call was received from the Register of Deeds office and was placed on speaker phone in front of their two children. “Everything we heard was pretty bad, especially for someone campaigning as a Christian.”
Following both Plemmons’ testimonies, the judge decided that while the plaintiff’s argument was within reason, it did not qualify under the conditions of an emergency restraining order, including stalking and/or non-consensual sexual contact, and was thereby nullified without further action. Additionally, Hampton was told that, regardless of whether an order had been in place, Plemmons’ request not to have contact is to be respected.
The McDowell News reached out to both Plemmons and Hampton following the decision.
“We are disheartened,” said Plemmons. “It feels like certain public officials can get away with these kinds of things and not get reprimanded.”
Plemmons also argued that repeated objections from the defense inhibited her from fully disclosing her side of the story.
Speaking on behalf of Hampton, McMahon issued a final statement on the decision, saying, “the defendant denies she committed any such act of harassment, abuse or stalking under N.C. General Statute 14-277.3A.”