In Today’s Herald: Lewis Fulton & ARToberFest

Ads in The Herald this week placed by D. K. Clay promoting Saturday’s ARToberFest celebration featured Lewis Fulton, who was to make his “debut” as a potter at the inaugural festival.

Fulton was once employed doing various odd jobs at D. K. Clay’s pottery studios, but Don Hudson – the founder of the Sanford Pottery Festival – and Kenneth Neilsen (the “D” and “K” of D. K. Clay) discovered that Lewis had a natural talent for throwing pottery. They’ve been working with him to develop his ability, and Don has been telling me (and many others)  about Lewis’ burgeoning abilities with clay. I’ve known Lewis for several years through my friendship with Don and involvement in the Pottery Festival, but know little about throwing potttery. So when I happened to run into Kenneth in Lowe’s Foods Sunday night, the day the first ads appeared, I asked him point-blank: is Lewis really that talented?

Absolutely, he said.

But Lewis also has a criminal record. His checkered past includes a guilty plea for taking indecent liberties with a child. And because of the uproar the ads caused, Lewis has decided to withdraw from participating in Saturday’s event.

Stories in Friday’s Herald outline the reasons behind Lewis’ decision and a little more about his guilty plea in the case and concerns expressed by the public about his appearance. It’s on page 3A.

Organizers of ARToberFest have known for weeks about Lewis’ participation in the event. So have many of us who know Lewis and have appreciated Don Hudson’s efforts to mentor him and be a positive influence in Lewis’ life. But we all underestimated the fallout that word of Lewis’ appearance would bring.

Trouble began brewing Monday when an employee of District Attorney Susan Doyle’s office in Sanford began circulating an e-mail message – and asking recipients to spread the word – about Lewis’ participation and expressing concerns about all the “stories” we had published about Lewis. (Although we did publish a photograph of Lewis last week, today is the first time we’ve published a story.) The employee accused The Herald, organizers of the festival and D. K. Clay for knowingly risking children by exposing them to a registered sex offender. She intimated we were “unconcerned” about the potential threats Lewis might pose, and even called me to say that the Sheriff’s Department was anxious to talk to us about our “stories” about Lewis (a claim the Sheriff’s Department flatly refuted later).

We pulled the ads featuring Lewis after the DA’s office, and three callers by our count, confused the ads with stories and said we were complicit in promoting the appearance of a registered sex offender at an event where children where invited. We’re sensitive to the charges and the crimes of which Lewis is accused. But to be fair to him, we’re also sensitive to his need to earn a living and rehabilitate his life – to make amends for his mistakes, to make a life for his family and to move forward and contribute to society in general and his community in particular.

Lewis was punished for the crime to which he pled guilty, even though today he maintains his innocence. He served time in prison. He’s working hard now to make amends and become a different person than he was before. Among the conditions of his release are that he provide for his own children and that he follow the guidelines that all registered sex offenders must follow. He has done that. His appearance at Saturday’s festival would not have violated any laws nor threatened anyone. Now his very ability to create a livelihood for himself is in jeopardy. And the fresh start Lewis was looking forward to on Saturday has been delayed – maybe for a long, long time, and maybe forever.

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7 Responses to In Today’s Herald: Lewis Fulton & ARToberFest

  1. […] wrote an interesting post today on In Todayâs Herald: Lewis Fulton & ARToberFestHere’s a quick […]

  2. Charles says:

    Checkered past indeed. Per NC Public records:
    Offense date 01/24/98: Assault with deadly weapon with intent to kill- conviction;
    Offense date 09/16/99: Assault with deadly weapon with intent to kill- conviction;
    Offense date 09/29/99: Discharge firearm personal property- conviction;
    Sent to prison and released on parole;
    Offense date 11/05/03: Indecent liberties with a child- conviction;
    Offense date 06/01/04: Possession of a firearm by a convicted felon- conviction;
    Sent to prison. The original charge according to public record was anal, vaginal, and oral sex with a child under 12. That is pretty checkered if you ask me.

    You make it sound like it is the DA office on a viendetta, but it is not. When I sent my e-mail, it was because my wife said something. I didn’t get the e-mail. I feel left out. I am not being asked to send this either, it is because I believe you are trying to cast blame where blame does not belong.

    It is not the “FAULT” OF THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY OR THEIR OFFICE. I sent you the e-mails I sent because of concerns as a private citizen.

    So, my question is this: Will you publish this on your blog or not? I’ll check back to see.

  3. bhorner3 says:

    Mr. Staley…
    No one denies that Lewis has a criminal record. As I expressed here, my concern with the DA’s office is that it seemed intent on interfering with Lewis’ ability to make a living for himself and to move on with his own rehabilitation and recovery. If he was a threat to any child attending the festival, then that needed to be addressed. Was it illegal for him to be there? Instead, the employee of the DA’s office seemed intent on accusing The Herald of hiding Lewis’ record in our “stories” (no stories were published before today) and trying to encourage public outrage that we would allow the ads to be published. The ads have since been pulled, and Lewis is out of the festival.

  4. Charles says:

    Everyone in the law enforcement community, whether in the Clerk’s office, the DA’s office, the Sheriff’s office, Social Services, or whatever agency has a three fold responsibility. 1) Enforce the laws as they are written, 2) Protect the public, and 3) Assist in the re-intergration of a defendant into society. Sometimes the “Protecting the public part” can be misunderstood.

    If someone pleads guilty through an Alford plea (I really didn’t do it but I am pleading guilty anyway), it no longer matters if they did it or not. Under General Statues they are guilty. When you get into the area of sex offenders and the Sex Offender Control Program it gets even more concrete. I understand Mr. Fulton’s and Mr. Hudson’s position, and I feel for them. I understand that he may be a brilliant potter, and I am sure this is a huge disappointment.

    I see both sides of the issue. The calls and e-mails to the Herald are because of information that is confidential and not available to the public. I understand why people in the legal community are upset. I personally did not think the ads were appropriate considering the situation. There is still a decision to be rendered by the NC Attorney General’s Office about this case.

    Back to “Protecting the Public.” Under the Sex Offender Control Protocol, a Sex Offender can not “work or volunteer for any business or organization(s) which provide services . . . to persons under 18. . .” and there are 18 other such conditions. That would include the Pottery Festival. I am not saying Mr. Fulton has this condition- the conditions imposed on anyone are up to the Court, the Legislators and the Attorney General. But these conditions have been developed to minimize the risk of recidivism. NO ONE under the SOCP will be at the Pottery Festival.

    Protect the Public- I will be working the night of Halloween. I am required to work that night by the Governor. I will be making multiple trips to the houses of the Sex Offenders in Lee county to ensure their lights are off and there are no “Trick or Treaters” there. If their outside lights are on, they will be arrested. There is no tolerance there. Halloween is a child molester’s Dream Holiday.

    But as I said, this doesn’ apply to Mr. Fulton.

  5. Dan Calloway says:

    I personally know Lewis and visited him while he was incarcerated. As the facts and motives of various players surrounding Lewis’ guilty plea and conviction of child molestation, etc. have been explained to me, I believe Lewis to be innocent of those charges. It was expedient for him to plead guilty to those charges to avoid other potentially more severe unrelated outcomes. And yes, Lewis had a prior record; anyone knowing the gauntlet Lewis had to survive as a child would wonder (but for the grace of God) why the prior record is not exponentially worse.

    Lewis has served his time for the crimes for which he was convicted. Is there to be no redemption for Lewis? Must everyone stand at the ready to hurl more stones at him? Surely enough were heaped upon him when as a child he was, indeed, guiltless.

    Lewis is trying to find his way. Aren’t we all engaged in that pursuit? Is Lewis perfect? Has any of us reached perfection?

  6. Rob says:

    Yes Dan…You are 100% correct. Everyone IS trying to find their way. So true.

    However, most of us (no matter how tragic our upbringing) aren’t raping small children along our ‘path to enlightenment.’

    Everyone in this world has the ‘right’ to earn a living, yes. But I think you’d be hard pressed to find many people who believe pedophiles deserve massive financial, emotional and community support toward their ‘artistic endeavors’.

    Should Lewis be allowed to earn a living? Of course. Should he be allowed to pursue a life involving pottery? Certainly.

    Should Don Hudson and Kenneth Nielson stand behind someone who LITERALLY destroyed a little girl’s life by physically torturing her mind and body? NO.

    Should they be clapping their hands and waving their pom-poms for a child molester/rapist? NO.

    Should they be printing photos like the ones they did of Lewis? NO.

    Instead, why don’t they apply all their grand ‘efforts’ toward a festival to earn scholorship money for children who have been victimized by people like Lewis?

    Which raises the question: What was Don Hudson thinking? He used to be a lawyer, for god’s sake. I can’t believe he made a move like this. Hasn’t he ever heard of the phrase ‘death by association?’ Every single human being I know is boycotting anything involving DK Clay. Don and Kenneth just committed instant career suicide.

  7. Dan Calloway says:

    Rob,

    If Lewis were guilty of raping and destroying a little girl’s life, I would agree with you. However, if you knew the true facts, you might be concerned about others involved rather than Lewis. You do understand that pleading guilty to a crime can be far different from being guilty of that crime. This will be my final comment in this matter.

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