The victim is disappointed by the outcome, his lawyer said
| USA TODAY Network
BENNETTSVILLE, S.C. — In a plea bargain that allowed him to avoid a conviction as a sex offender, Mike Lallier of Fayetteville’s Reed-Lallier Chevrolet car dealership was convicted Friday of contributing to the delinquency of a minor for giving alcohol to a 15-year-old Fayetteville boy four years ago.
“I plead guilty, your honor,” Lallier told Judge Roger Henderson.
The boy, who is now 19, and his family are unhappy with the outcome, said their lawyer, Michael Porter.
“He is disappointed that Mike Lallier will not have to register as a sex offender because he’s hoped that any plea agreement would force Lallier to register so that another young boy would not have to go down the same path that he went down,” Porter said.
More: It’s been four years. Why hasn’t Fayetteville car dealer Mike Lallier’s sex charge case gone to trial?
Lallier had been charged in September 2016 with third-degree criminal sexual conduct, a felony, in Darlington County. The conduct was alleged to have occurred in a recreational vehicle in the infield at Darlington Raceway during a NASCAR race weekend.
Under the terms of Lallier’s plea bargain, the criminal sexual conduct charge was dismissed and cannot be refiled. Also under the arrangement, Henderson gave Lallier a one-year suspended sentence — meaning he won’t be jailed or imprisoned — with three days of credit for the three days he spent in jail following his arrest in 2016.
Lallier sat still and did not respond when a USA TODAY Network reporter approached him shortly before the court hearing began and asked if he had any comment. Lallier’s defense lawyer then asked that the reporter not speak with him.
Lallier is prominent in Fayetteville, not only for his car dealership and other business ventures but for his donations to local elected officials and for his time as chairman and a member of the Fayetteville Public Works Commission.
More: $1.9 million payout in sexual battery suit against Mike Lallier
More: Search warrant lists sex toys, alcohol in Lallier case
A lawsuit the boy filed against Lallier in November 2016 said Lallier offered the boy alcohol to go into the RV with him. The lawsuit says in the RV, Lallier gave the boy alcohol, showed him pornographic videos and engaged in sexual activity with him.
The boy reported the incident the next day. Law enforcement searched the RV, collected evidence and arrested Lallier. Three days later, he was released with a $10,000 bail.
The lawsuit was settled in late 2016 for $1.925 million. The boy’s share was $900,000. The rest was divided among other teenagers who made similar allegations against Lallier and to several adults with connections to the teens.
An affidavit from the settlement appears to be a factor in the judge’s decision to approve the terms of the plea bargain. The affidavit says the boy would not oppose any decision that the prosecutor made to resolve the criminal case, including a decision to dismiss the charge.
“The affidavit speaks volumes,” Henderson said, adding that it suggests that the boy received something significant to agree to those terms.
Henderson also noted as he considered the proposed sentence that neither the boy nor his parents attended the hearing. Henderson’s law clerk said he set up an online video chat for them to watch online and emailed instructions and an online link to them, but they never logged on.
Porter said the boy and his parents planned to watch the online video stream but the boy’s father told him he never received the connection information. The family franticly contacted Porter for assistance, he said.
Other than a reporter, the only spectator in the courtroom was an uncle of the boy.
More: Lawyers: Lallier ruling reinforced principle of open courts
The matter set legal precedent in the North Carolina court system. The fall 2016 civil lawsuit had been sealed from public access at Lallier’s request. There was no way for the public to examine the records to see that Lallier had been sued, what the lawsuit alleged he did, or the terms of the settlement.
The Fayetteville Observer and its then-parent company, GateHouse Media, learned of the lawsuit and petitioned the courts for several years to get the records unsealed. The North Carolina Court of Appeals in late 2018 ordered the records to be opened, although it allowed limited redactions.
The records, with some redactions to shield the identities of the plaintiffs, were released in August and September of 2019.
More: Judge releases some Lallier lawsuit records
Paul Woolverton can be reached at [email protected] and 910-261-4710.