Indicted attorney says he's innocent

Three days after being indicted on charges of extortion and obstruction of justice, Shawn Clark maintains his innocence.

The Catawba County lawyer and former district attorney candidate turned himself in on Wednesday in Newton. He was released after posting a $50,000 secured bond and will appear in court Friday, Nov. 18, at 9 a.m. in Newton.

He said he intends to face the charges head on.

“I think the charges are absolutely ridiculous,” Clark said Wednesday afternoon. “I’m not going to hide from the charges. I feel very confident I am going to defend myself against them.”

Clark is accused of issuing threats and false affidavits to cover up an alleged sexual relationship with a former client, Tiffany Turnmire, whom he represented in a 2007 domestic violence custody battle and a 2009 domestic violence case.

The accusations surround a series of back-and-forth court battles between Clark, Turnmire and Turnmire's husband, Tim, a few months prior to Clark’s May 2010 District 25 Attorney primary race against incumbent Jay Gaither. Clark went on to lose the primary by less than 250 votes.

Senior Deputy Attorney General James J. Coman filed the indictments. The indictments — which follow a long-term investigation by the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation — accuse Clark of threatening Turnmire and his former secretary, Terri Edwards, to lie about the alleged sexual relationship in court. Clark is also accused of drafting a false affidavit used to “defraud the court” and defeat lawsuits brought about by Tim Turnmire after he learned about the affair.

Tim Turnmire sued Clark for alienation of affection in January 2010 — shortly after Clark announced his intention to run for election — claiming Clark maintained an affair with his wife and paid to fly her to visit him in Las Vegas.

Clark filed a countersuit against Tiffany Turnmire for libel, slander and intentional inflection of emotional distress. At the time, Clark told The O-N-E that he was trying to rescue Turnmire from a violent situation when he flew her to Las Vegas for a weekend.

Clark said Wednesday the alleged threats and allegations never happened.

“These indictments are a warning shot to anyone wanting to run against Jay Gaither in the future, including myself,” Clark said. “I lost the election by 200 votes, and I accepted it. But unfortunately, some people are very upset at me. I exposed some things in this county that some people didn’t like. I feel like this is nothing but a retaliatory measure.”

Gaither, the District 25 Attorney, issued a statement in response to the indictments.

“I take no pleasure in seeing a member of the bar indicted, and I am deeply saddened that Shawn Clark has brought this on himself and his family through his actions, his lies and his deceptions.  Mr. Clark has conducted himself in an unprofessional and dishonorable manner, and he has attempted to escape public humiliation by slandering me and attacking my family,” Gaither said.

“The attorney general of the state of North Carolina and a Catawba County Grand Jury have indicted Shawn Clark for three felonies involving threats and intimidation,” Gaither continued. “I am not intimidated by the lies and fabrications of Shawn Clark.  Shawn Clark is a criminal defendant, and he needs to comply with the judge's bond conditions to leave me and my family alone.”

Clark said he plans to deal with the charges.

“It’s been hard. It’s kind of like eating an elephant — you have to deal with it one bite at a time,” he said. “We’re handling it. We have no other option.”

Clark, a graduate of St. Stephens High School, has been a licensed lawyer since 1997. He said he is still a practicing lawyer, adding that he earned two not-guilty verdicts in jury trials in the past two weeks.

Katherine Jean, a representative from the N.C. State Bar, said the bar cannot issue comments or opinions about pending grievances involving a lawyer they have licensed.

“Whether or not the State Bar has a grievance file open is confidential,” she said, adding that the bar cannot discuss specific cases.

Clark said he intends to fight the charges, starting with his arraignment next Friday.

“I’m going to face it head on,” he said. “And if there are thoughts out there that these will keep me or anyone else from running in the future, they are wrong.”