• City hires attorney to manage Kerrick trial publicity

    By: Scott Wickersham

    Updated:

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Just weeks before a historic trial of a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer accused of killing an unarmed man, Channel 9 has learned exclusively the city of Charlotte has hired a consultant to help it handle public reaction to the Randall Kerrick trial -- and the verdict.

    Mark Weaver used to work for the U.S. Department of Justice, briefing the media about the federal prosecution of police brutality cases.

    He's helping Charlotte deal with the possible aftermath of the trial and damage that could be done to city's image through effective communication with citizens, employees and the media.

    "I don’t know that will happen in Charlotte. We hope and pray that it won’t, but if national eyes should turn to the city of Charlotte I know the leaders of the city want to be prepared,” Weaver said.

    Weaver also consulted the city of Stubenville, Ohio, after high school football players were convicted of raping a 16-year-old.

    “Their very reputation for fairness was at risk and I was brought in to help them communicate the basic facts about how the city responded to that case," Weaver said.
     
    Taxpayers will pay $15,000 for his advice.

    Mayor Pro Tem Michael Barnes feels Charlotte's reputation, no matter what the verdict, will stay intact.

    "There are a lot of good people in this community and a consultant is not needed at this point" said Barnes. "I think people recognize Charlotte has tried to respond to these concerns about policing, civil rights, and people appreciate that."

    But Weaver said when the national media get involved the narrative can change, and leaders need to be ready.
       
    "The demand for coverage is only getting stronger and smart leaders put together a plan ahead of time so they can be ready for any possibility,” Weaver said.

    City manager Ron Carlee sent a statement to Channel 9, saying:

    "For major events of all types we do extensive planning for a range of contingencies. We have consistently found that having the advice of someone who is not intimately involved with events has been helpful in providing perspective."

    The Kerrick trial starts July 20.


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