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Prof turns self in on ‘swamp’ sign theft
Thursday, 01 November 2018 22:57

Accomplice still at large

From Staff Reports 

Amanda Wray, a UNC Asheville associate professor of English, was charged in early October with a misdemeanor following accusations that she stole a political sign.

Mike Summey, treasurer of the local political action committee Angry Buncombe Taxpayers, told local news reporters that he saw Wray and an unidentified woman remove a sign Oct. 5, near the intersection of Leicester Highway and Mt. Carmel Road.

Wray turned herself in about 10:25 a.m. Oct. 7 at the Buncombe County Detention Facility, after a warrant was issued for arrest in connection with stealing a political sign. Her female accomplice, however, has not yet been located.

Buncombe Sheriff Van Duncan said his unit will try to identify the woman who Summey said was working with Wray.

Removing a lawfully placed political sign is a crime in North Carolina.

Summey, who is the treasurer of the Angry Buncombe Taxpayers, said he caught Wray and the other woman in the act, saying that when he saw the signs being stolen, he pulled over and confronted the women, who then ran toward a vehicle.

He added that he snapped a picture of the vehicle, which is how he was able to track Wray down with the help of law enforcement.

Angry Buncombe Taxpayers paid for the signs to be made and placed throughout the county, he noted.

Summey said he is disappointed that the person accused in the sign theft turned out to be a university professor. 


“My question is real simple. What is a 38-year-old woman with a Ph.D., that’s a college professor, doing out at 10 o’clock at night stealing political signs? What does that say to our young people? What does that say to the community about some of the people that are working down at our local university?” Summey asked, rhetorically, in an interview with Asheville’s WLOS-TV News 13. 


A spokesperson for UNCA would only confirm to WLOS Wray’s employment there, and said the issue was between Wray and law enforcement, declining to comment further.


In an Oct. 6 Facebook post, Summey wrote:


“Last night, just before 10 p.m., I caught two women in the act of stealing our signs. I watched them remove the signs, then rushed to confront them. Both were carrying a sign when I ask (sic) them what they were doing. They said they were taking the signs. I told them what they were doing was theft and I intended to report them. At this point, they ran across the street to their car and quickly put the signs in the back of it. I grabbed my cell phone and quickly followed them where I made this picture of the license plate on the car as they tried to speed away.”


After filing a report with the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office, Summey said an officer ran the tag from the photo he shot — and it came back to Wray.


Summey said he looked Wray up on Facebook and immediately recognized her as one of the women who took the signs.


On her UNCA webpage, Wray states:


“I am interested in language practices, looking in particular ways in which words have social power (to construct and deconstruct). What you say has great potential to contribute to or to interrupt social norms, and students in my classes can expect conversation about everyday strategies for using language to address social oppressions. I consider writing an important tool for critical thinking and creativity, but also I see the ability to write effectively and appropriately for different situations to be a most valuable and marketable skill within and byond the university. My research interests involve oral history, feminism, public scholarship, rhetorical practices of consciousness, visual rhetoric, professional writing, research methods and creative nonfiction.”


According to state statute, Wray’s actions are “a Class 3 misdemeanor for a person to steal, deface, vandalize or unlawfully remove a political sign that is lawfully placed under this section.”


The penality for a Class 3 misdemeanor in North Carolina is a maximum of 20 days in jail and a $200 fine.


Wray’s case will be heard in court on Dec. 4.


The Asheville Citizen Times reported  on Oct. 8 that Summey’s PAC has spent “several thousand dollars” on the “drain the swamp” signs this year. About 100 of the 600 signs installed have been vandalized or stolen, he told the ACT.


The ACT added, “As news of Friday night’s sign theft spread on social media, supporters of Angry Buncombe Taxpayers called for Wray’s dismissal from UNCA. Others, including Summey, said that the sign proves ‘liberal bias’ in institutions of higher learning — a common conservative critique of academia.”


The ACT quoted Summey as adding, “If these are the people teaching our young people, no wonder some of them are growing up conflicted.”


In a letter to the editor that appeared in the Oct. 20 print edition of the Asheville Citizen Times, David Shipp wrote:


“This professor is obviously scared of something (a responsible government?). She committed an act that is not only against the law, but is also antithetical to UNCA students, faculty cohorts and her university position. UNCA, another government entity, owes it to all N.C. citizens to get rid of her and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law. Not to mention that the students at NCA need to see the caliber of the professors UNCA is hiring.”

 



 


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