ABC 20/20 "...pretty much
showed how I am,"
Davidson County Sheriff says

(DAVIDSON COUNTY, N.C.) -- The sheriff who hosted Deborah Norville in his jail in February stepped into national notoriety again Monday.

The ABC news program ''20/20 Downtown'' broadcast a profile of Davidson County Sheriff Gerald Hege on prime-time television. The sheriff said he caught the last part of the story and gave it passing marks for even-handedness.

''It was pretty fair,'' Hege said from his home Monday night after the broadcast aired. ''You only have so much time. They just pretty much showed how I am.''

The story gave time to critics of Hege's hardball style of policing, including a Denton couple suing Hege for police brutality and an elderly disabled man who complained that deputies needlessly handcuffed him, making him pass out and fall.

''That is standard procedure for Hege and his bunch,'' critic Thomas Lashon told ABC news correspondent Chris Cuomo, ''not to have warrants, 12 or 1 o'clock in the morning. Night raids like the Gestapo.''

Hege said the ABC report left out a few things: Lashon has changed his name from Thomas Lott, holds strong anti-government views and has had several other run-ins with police.

The 20-minute segment covered terrain familiar to local people. It sketched Hege's younger days after he came home from military service in Vietnam. The TV show mentioned an incident when Hege, working as a deputy sheriff, was involved in the shooting death of a suspect. However, ABC did not point out that the State Bureau of Investigation looked into the incident and did not charge Hege.

The program traced his election as sheriff in 1994 and touted SBI statistics showing a 30 percent drop in crime in Davidson County since Hege took office.

ABC also focused on Hege's penchant for having his deputies chase suspected criminals.

''I love a chase,'' Hege tells Cuomo. ''I chase. I ram. I slam. I'm going to take you off the road.''

ABC mentioned Hege's line of products and the controversy over him using county time and county property for the private, nonprofit Blue Line Foundation.

''Who can say no to you and win?'' Cuomo asked Hege.

''No one,'' Hege said. ''Only the voters.''

Hege will face election for a third term in 2002.

''20/20 Downtown'' wasn't the first time Hege has been in the national spotlight. In February, ''Inside Edition'' anchor Deborah Norville served a week in Hege's jail for a TV report. Davidson's lockup is famous for lacking amenities such as television and for keeping inmates in their cells 23 hours a day.

German news crews have taken a particular liking to the tough-talking Hege, coming over seven times to do stories.

Hege also has gained notoriety from his national cable program, ''Live From Cell Block F,'' where he questions inmates about their crimes and their lives. The talk show takes place inside the pink walls of the Davidson County Jail.

Hege is used to lots of media attention. Critics say he courts it at the expense of doing his job. But Hege said the publicity is all part of sending a message that criminals should avoid Davidson County.

(iSyndicate; News & Record(Greensboro, NC); No date provided. Terms and Conditions: Copyright(c) 2000 LEXIS-NEXIS, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights Reserved.

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