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Former NHC Commission Chair Julia Olson-Boseman will not face charges after criminal investigation

On April 19, 2021, New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Chair Julia Olson-Boseman shared the State of the County.
Jared Hall / New Hanover County
On April 19, 2021, New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Chair Julia Olson-Boseman shared the State of the County.

"The burden of proof in the criminal justice system is much higher than that applied in the court of public opinion, and for good reason," the state's top financial crimes prosecutor wrote in a letter, recommending against pressing charges against Olson-Boseman, who served as both a county commissioner and state senator.

Note: This article was initially published by WECT and is being republished with permission.

Former New Hanover County Commissioner Julia Olson-Boseman will not face criminal charges after an investigation by the financial crimes unit of the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys.

Chief Financial Crimes Prosecutor Jordan Ford says the unit was asked by District Attorney Ben David to look into allegations against Olson-Boseman in 2021 because of a conflict of interest within David’s office (in large part, county funding for parts of David's staff). David also asked the conference to prosecute the case if any charges were recommended.

Olson-Boseman was accused of taking $20,000 from Gary Holyfield in 2020 to represent him in a wrongful death lawsuit against the State of North Carolina after Holyfield’s 16-year-old daughter died in a car crash on I-140.

Olson-Boseman was the chairwoman of the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners at the time.

Holyfield says Olson-Boseman never filed a lawsuit after taking the $20,000 check.

Ford sent a report to David and the Executive Director of the Conference of DA’s Monday to say he had completed his review of the allegations against Olson-Boseman.

“The totality of the evidence I have reviewed in this case is legally insufficient to proceed with criminal charges,” Ford said. “Based on the information available for my review, no criminal charges should be pursued against Olson-Boseman at this time. As such, I recommend that we decline prosecution in this matter and take no further action.”

Ford’s report says the $20,000 check Holyfield gave Olson-Boseman was for a nonrefundable retainer fee and he details what happens after Holyfield handed her the check.

“Holyfield received minimal contact from Olson-Boseman or any member of her law firm during the next year,” Ford said. “When he inquired further into the status of his case, Holyfield learned that the wrongful death lawsuit had not in fact been filed and the statute of limitations had expired.”

Holyfield filed a report with the Wilmington Police Department on June 26, 2021, claiming Olson-Boseman had “obtained the fee by a means of false pretense.”

According to Ford, the state would need to prove five things beyond a reasonable doubt for a jury to find Olson-Boseman guilty of obtaining property by false pretenses:

  1. The defendant made a representation to another.
  2. This representation was false.
  3. This representation was calculated and intended to deceive.
  4. The victim was in fact deceived by this representation.
  5. The defendant thereby obtained or attempted to obtain property from the victim.

Ford’s report says the first three points coincide and he claims there is not enough evidence to show that Olson-Boseman obtained Holyfield’s property by false pretenses.

“The evidence in this matter would permit the State to show that Olson-Boseman made a representation to Holyfield. However, the evidence would not allow the State to demonstrate that representation was false, calculated, or intended to deceive, much less prove those elements beyond a reasonable doubt,” Ford said.

The report states that the agreement Holyfield signed stated that he was not entitled to a refund for any portion of the $20,000 he gave Olson-Boseman, even if she did not provide legal services.

Ford also says the agreement between Olson-Boseman and Holyfield stated that the $20,000 would be deposited into Olson-Boseman’s business account rather than a client trust account.

“The actions of Olson-Boseman are consistent with the terms of the Agreement and should have been anticipated by Holyfield at the time the Agreement was executed,” said Ford. “At best, the evidence in this matter indicates the nonfulfillment of a contractual obligation between Olson-Boseman and Holyfield.”

Ford’s report says the state is not able to bring criminal charges against Olson-Boseman because of a lack of evidence to show that she intended to deceive Holyfield.

“I have not received or reviewed any additional evidence that indicates Olson-Boseman obtained or attempted to obtain any property from Holyfield by fraudulent or false pretenses,” said Ford.

In his recommendation to David and the Conference of DA’s, Ford says he spoke with several people associated with the case and received input from other prosecutors before deciding against pursuing criminal charges against Olson-Boseman.

“The burden of proof in the criminal justice system is much higher than that applied in the court of public opinion, and for good reason,” said Ford. “The focus of a prosecutor must always be to administer the criminal laws of North Carolina fairly and impartially regardless of the individuals involved.”

Olson-Boseman surrendered her law license and was ultimately disbarred by the North Carolina State Bar in January. The NCSB had also been investigating the allegations against Olson-Boseman.

According to documents from the N.C. State Bar, Olson-Boseman signed an affidavit tendering the surrender of her license on Nov. 20, 2023. In the affidavit, she acknowledges “the material facts upon which the grievance is predicated are true” and that she would not be able to successfully defend against the allegations.

At one point during the NCSB investigation, Olson-Boseman was held in contempt of court for failure to comply with a court order.

Ford addresses the NCSB investigation in his report and says the parameters are different when it comes to criminal investigations.

“As evidenced by the Order from the State Bar, Olson-Boseman’s actions were undoubtedly in violation of her responsibilities under the NC Rules of Professional Conduct. However, Olson-Boseman’s actions do not appear to have violated the criminal laws of the state of North Carolina,” said Ford.

Olson-Boseman served as a New Hanover County commissioner from 2000 to 2004, as a state senator from 2005 to 2011, and again as commissioner from 2018 to 2022.