A former councilman from Fletcher, North Carolina has been convicted of obstruction of justice after falsely representing himself as a medical doctor with additional doctoral degrees in order to provide expert testimony in court.
Expert Witness Appearance
Milton LeRoy Byrd, 66, appeared as an expert witness on behalf of Monroe Gordon Piland, a doctor and medical marijuana activist who was convicted of several drug crimes, including trafficking opium or heroin. Byrd testified on Piland’s behalf in a Buncombe County Civil District Court matter in 2016 and in a bond hearing in April 2017.
Byrd had claimed to be a medical doctor with three additional degrees. Byrd’s curriculum vitae, which was submitted by Piland’s counsel during discovery, showed that Byrd obtained degrees from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine in respiratory therapy along with degrees in religion and two bachelor degrees.
The case against Byrd began when Assistant District Attorney Alex Bass, who was prosecuting Piland, was researching defense witnesses. Bass became suspicious when he saw Byrd’s resume. He noticed that Byrd had misspelled the name of the medical school that he had supposedly attended and that he had listed a few things that a doctor wouldn’t normally put on their CV. Bass said, “I had no idea who Byrd was until discovery, but immediately there were some red flags…. He always misspelled the name of the medical school he supposedly attended…. There were a couple other things you wouldn’t think a doctor would put in a CV, too, like ‘being a shaman’…. It was just weird.”
Bass contacted the University of Chicago – Pritzker School of Medicine to inquire about Byrd. Representatives from the university told Bass that they had no record of Byrd graduating from the school and that they did not offer degrees in respiratory medicine. The office of the district attorney turned the information over the the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office, which investigated Byrd and charged him with felony common law obstruction of justice.
Obstruction of Justice Conviction
The district attorney turned the case over to the North Carolina Attorney General. Assistant Attorney General Nick Benjamin tried the case, which resulted in Byrd’s conviction. Byrd was sentenced to three years supervised probation, a fine of $5,000, and to pay the cost of his court-appointed attorney, $3,440. Superior Court Judge Gary Gavenus also ordered that Byrd cannot include on his CV “or any other medium whatsoever” any reference to his false medical doctorate or falsified degrees in philosophy, divinity, and metaphysics.
Byrd’s court-appointed attorney, Kathy Lamotte, said that she believed that her client lacked the intent required for a felonious obstruction of justice conviction. Byrd’s case is headed to the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Lamotte said, “I think, sitting in the chair I sat, there are some grounds for appeal, but it will be entirely up to the office of the appellate defender to review the case and make their own decisions about what was there.”