The latest twist in the bizarre tale of Sen. R.C. Soles, a lawyer, and a young client, Allen Strickland, is that after Strickland went to see Soles on Friday, someone apparently called the police. From WWAY:
The 75-year-old Senator and 17-year-old Strickland have had a relationship for years, often a rocky one, that’s required police intervention on at least a dozen occasions.
Strickland is actually charged in an unrelated arson at the home of J.C. Phipps, the father of Soles’ former law partner, Bill Phipps. Strickland adamantly denies any involvement in that fire.
He does have a string of other misdemeanor charges on his record.
As recently as Friday, police were called to Senator Soles’ law firm after getting word that Strickland was there. The Senator recently took out a protective order to keep Strickland off his property, unless he’s there for official legal business.
This time, police didn’t make any arrests, and Strickland says the meeting with the Senator was cordial.
“He told me he was sorry to hear what happened, and he’d help me get it fixed back, and anything he could do to help me, just let him know,” Strickland said. “When I heard him say it, and he was crying and stuff, he convinced me that he didn’t have nothing to do with it.”
A friend of mine in the broadcasting business asked me yesterday why so few media organizations seem to be delving deeply into this story. WWAY is certainly on the case, as is The Big Talker and a few others. But the dailies haven’t done much with the story, yet. Given Soles’ prominence in the NC Senate, this ought to have made at least the front page of the local section of the Raleigh News & Observer by now. A sitting state senator, a young client, a strange financial and personal relationship, multiple arsons, a string of police calls, continuous dodging of legitimate questions from reporters — this story is both important and compelling.
So why so little coverage yet? Several explanations present themselves. One is that reporters are digging but aren’t yet ready to publish. (Okay, but give your readers something.) Another explanation is fear — that journalists will be accused of anti-gay prejudice if they allege that kind of relationship, or sued by Soles for defamation, or otherwise will risk their reputations by “going too far.” Finally, editors at shrinking newsrooms may believe that they lack sufficient resources to do this story given other news to report.
For the record, I have no idea what the underlying facts are here. Perhaps Strickland is just a troubled youth, someone a compassionate Soles has been trying to help at great personal cost. Perhaps there was a physical relationship between the two that went sour. Perhaps there wasn’t, but Strickland threatened to say there was unless Soles paid him off. Perhaps the house was burned down by bigots. Perhaps the fire was accidental.
If they are not already doing so, North Carolina news organizations should be asking these questions and preparing to give their audiences some answers. This is a high-level state senator, for goodness sake.
UPDATE: WECT has now run a piece on the Strickland-Soles story. From their interview with the young man:
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“My family thinks he may have something to do with this,” said Strickland. “They knew what kind of money he was giving me and maybe he was tired of giving me money and he had this done. But I don’t believe it.”
Strickland said he fears he was being targeted. He said he thought someone planned on shooting him or throwing fire on him.
The teenager moved into the house in April and said he has filed several police reports about being harrassed by people knocking on his door in the middle of the night – and that’s what he said happened just before the fire.
WECT was unable to reach Senator Soles for comment, but Strickland said their relationship began three years ago.
“He helped my brother Shawn who drowned in 2006 in Raleigh,” said Strickland. “I met him [Soles] at a funeral and that’s when he started helping me.”
The teenager said their relationship is not intimate in any way. Strickland maintains he looks to Soles as a father figure.