Bald Head Island reverses course, drops charges against mother in golf cart case

Bald Head Island reverses course, drops charges against mother in golf cart case

CHARLOTTE, NC (Mark Washburn/The Charlotte Observer) - In an abrupt about-face, the village of Bald Head Island has dismissed charges it reinstated last month against a Charlotte-area woman arrested for child abuse in 2015 after letting her underage son drive a golf cart at the exclusive resort off Wilmington.

In February, Julie Mall filed a federal suit against the arresting officer, James Hunter, alleging assault, unlawful use of force and malicious prosecution. Days after the suit was filed, Bald Head Island refiled the original charges against Mall, a Ballantyne-area mother of two who was vacationing with her family at the historic island when she was arrested in July 2015.

Mall had been charged by Bald Head police with child abuse, resisting arrest and intoxication, charges that were dismissed by a Brunswick County judge last year after the arresting officer twice failed to show up to testify.

On Monday, the village attorney, Charles Baldwin, said that the island's Public Safety Department requested the charges be dropped because of the pending civil litigation. He said the village has not discussed refiling the charges again.

Under state law, the dismissed charges can refiled by authorities up to two years after the original date of arrest, meaning the island has until July 26 to decide on whether to take further action.

Mall, who said Monday she had no comment on the charges being dropped, has maintained that she was wrong to allow her son to steer the golf cart because a valid drivers' license is required to operate one on the island, where passenger cars are prohibited. But Mall has also maintained that police escalated the encounter far beyond what was necessary, repeatedly and wrongly accusing her and her husband of being drunk, bringing her two children to tears and manhandling her during the arrest.

"I hope this is the last time this matter will be in criminal court," said attorney Bruce Mason of Wilmington, who was representing her in the criminal case. Attorney John Gresham of Charlotte is representing Mall in the civil case.