Probation agent, lawyer spar at McKown hearing

Judge to rule on coroner's case later this month

Charles D. PerryAugust 1, 2008 

Doug McKown listens as his probation agent, Cresinna Underwood, right, answers questions by McKown's attorney Jack Swerling during a probation hearing Wednesday at the York County Courthouse.

MELISSA CHERRY • MCHERRY@HERALDONLINE.COM

Doug McKown's probation agent says the York County coroner is "conniving" and should go to prison for a year.

McKown's lawyer, Jack Swerling, says his client didn't intentionally violate his probation last month and isn't guilty of some of the charges he's accused of.

McKown will have to wait nearly a month to learn his fate.

The agent and Swerling argued during a hearing Thursday before a state probation official. The session was scheduled when Mc-Kown was accused of violating the probation he received in May, after a jury convicted him of illegally possessing a half-pill of Viagra.

The probation official told Mc-Kown that the case will go before a circuit court judge later this month. But the official didn't say what he would ask the judge to do.

McKown, 39, was accused July 18 of violating his probation by lying to an agent about being arrested in North Carolina recently, not immediately notifying an agent of his arrest and leaving the state without permission, among other offenses.

The previous night, McKown was cited in North Carolina for driving while drinking and an open container violation. At the time, McKown was driving a county vehicle and traveling with a man suspected of smoking crack cocaine.

McKown announced his resignation last week, saying his final day as coroner will be Aug. 13.

During Thursday's hearing, McKown's probation agent, Cresinna Underwood, and Swerling debated several of her office's allegations:

• Swerling said McKown didn't lie to probation officials about his North Carolina case. Underwood said McKown was untruthful when he called her the day after his arrest and said he'd been ticketed in North Carolina, but not arrested. "He's placed in handcuffs; he is under arrest," she said. Swerling argued McKown's description of the event was accurate.

• Underwood said McKown should have called her as soon as her office opened the day after his arrest. "Our office opens at 8:30," she said. "My phone should've been ringing off the hook at 8:30, not 9:17 (a.m.)," when McKown called.

Swerling said that expectation is extreme. "It really stretches the imagination that it was not timely," he said.

• Because McKown is on probation, he is not allowed to possess a gun. Underwood said McKown broke that rule when he went on a hunting trip in Argentina last month. She contends that he presented the trip as simply a vacation, nothing more. But Swerling presented her a document that showed she'd signed off on the trip. The word "hunt" is in the second line of the form. A judge also approved McKown's travels.

Underwood: "I never gave him permission to possess a firearm."

Swerling: "How do you go on a hunting trip without a firearm?"

Underwood: "I've been on hunting trips, and I don't possess a firearm."

• As part of his probation, Mc-Kown is required to perform eight hours of community service each week. Underwood said he'd only worked five hours total. Swerling pointed out that McKown went to Argentina, a coroner's conference in Myrtle Beach and to a job interview in Las Vegas. All the trips were approved by the probation office.

"I didn't have time," McKown said.

Underwood said those excuses were unacceptable.

As for the North Carolina charges, McKown admitted that he was drinking on the day he was arrested.

McKown said Thursday that he'd consumed a few beers on the day in question, including one at dinner. He said he drove to North Carolina that night to pick up Eric Howell, who employs McKown at a funeral home in Gastonia, N.C. McKown said Howell was drunk and needed a ride home.

One of McKown's alleged probation violations is associating with someone who has a criminal record. Underwood said McKown remained friends with a man convicted of assaulting a female in 2007. McKown said he didn't know about the charge.

Underwood called McKown "conniving" and said he would lie to get out of trouble. She recommended that he serve a year in prison.

Swerling said penalties other than prison would suffice. A judge could stiffen McKown's probation requirements, such as requiring more visits to his probation agent or more hours of community service.

McKown and Swerling declined to comment after the hearing. The coroner will go before a circuit court judge Aug. 29.

Charles D. Perry • 329-4068

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