A misdemeanor embezzlement charge was dropped Wednesday against the longtime president of the Chesterfield County NAACP, who said he was falsely accused from within the organization in a move motivated in part by attempts to remove him as president.
During a hearing in Chesterfield General District Court, local attorney Erin Ranney, who was appointed special prosecutor in the case, withdrew the charge against LaSalle J. McCoy, who was accused of embezzling less than $200 from the organization over the past two years.
The criminal complaint against McCoy was sworn out in February by Nicole Martin, the organization’s treasurer.
“The charges were baseless,” said McCoy, noting Martin had been treasurer for a couple of years and “never talked to me” about how he used branch funds to conduct business on behalf of the organization.
“You spend money in any organization for purposes of benefiting your causes,” McCoy said in a telephone interview Thursday. “When you have lunch with knowledgeable individuals, the branch pays for that. When you travel to conventions or events, the branch pays for that. Those questions could have been answered if the individual had just asked me.”
In her complaint, Martin alleged McCoy and his girlfriend made “illegal and unauthorized transactions” using the organization’s account “for at least the last two years.”
Martin wrote that the transactions included paying for dinners at local restaurants and unauthorized cash withdrawals. She also alleged that McCoy and his girlfriend have an unauthorized debit card, and “we have proof in bank statements that the current amount stolen is above $250.”
The charge came amid divisions within the organization over its leadership and an effort by some members to remove McCoy as president, a position he has held since 2008. Asked whether he believed the charge against him was motivated by a faction trying to oust him, McCoy said, “Yes,” declining to elaborate.
The internal dispute became public last year when Tavorise K. Marks, the chairman of the branch’s legal address committee, held a news conference that was unauthorized by the organization to talk about a March 28 traffic stop involving a young black driver and strongly criticize several Chesterfield police officers’ actions, which he described as excessive use of force.
McCoy said Marks was acting on behalf of himself and not the organization, as Marks claimed, and said the NAACP has a positive relationship with county police.
McCoy and Chesterfield Police Chief Jeffrey Katz recorded a joint video message of unity, saying some within the NAACP had sought to “leverage the trusting relationship we’ve built over the years to gain some personal exposure with the media and through online platforms.”
Marks earlier this year denied that the criminal complaint filed against McCoy was related to the effort to remove him, saying, “there was a general request from branch members that Mr. McCoy be removed because he went against the wishes of the branch.”
Chesterfield Commonwealth’s Attorney Scott Miles said he recused himself and staff from handing the case because he is a dues-paying member of the NAACP.
A Chesterfield judge appointed Ranney to serve as special prosecutor after several elected commonwealth’s attorneys in adjacent localities — who usually perform this service — declined to accept the appointment, Miles said.
Messages left for Ranney on her decision to withdraw the charge were not returned. Chesterfield police determined no crime was committed after an investigation, resulting in the charge against McCoy being dismissed, said police spokeswoman Elizabeth Caroon.