Precious Oliphant swore an oath in court this week.
The wrong one.
In an unusual incident described in a judge’s order, the 31-year-old Charlotte woman shouted an epithet as she was about to leave a federal courtroom last week, moments after she watched an acquaintance plead guilty to his role in the 2017 shooting of a Charlotte postal carrier.
“Piece of s—,” Oliphant angrily yelled as the room was emptying but while court was still in session, the order says.
It’s not clear to whom Oliphant’s curse was directed. But in a filing he wrote about the incident, U.S. Magistrate David Cayer said Oliphant’s voice “was loud enough to be heard throughout” Cayer’s courtroom.
He ordered U.S. marshals to stop Oliphant from leaving and to bring her before him, the document says. Cayer then told Oliphant she was being charged with contempt of court and asked her if she had anything else to say. Oliphant said she did not.
Cayer sentenced Oliphant to 10 days in the Mecklenburg County Jail, his order shows. The offense carries a maximum 30-day sentence and a $5,000 fine. Jail records indicate she began her jail stay a little before 4 p.m. on Thursday and remained jailed Monday morning.
Oliphant was among the spectators who earlier had watched Dion Williams plead guilty to attempted murder of a federal employee, Cayer’s order says.
The charge stems from the Aug. 31, 2017, shooting of Charlotte postal carrier Edward Douglas McDaniel while he was delivering mail near Clanton Road.
Before the shooting, Dion Williams drove his brother Rashawn Williams to a hotel where the brother retrieved a .44-caliber handgun, documents say.
The Williamses then drove to west Charlotte and found McDaniel’s mail truck on Archer Avenue. There, according to documents, Rashawn Williams got out of the car and shot the carrier.
In court filings, federal prosecutors do not identify a motive, but they describe the shooting as premeditated. They also said Dion Williams expected to be paid for driving the car.
Previously, Rashawn Williams also pleaded guilty to the same attempted murder charge along with one count of discharging a firearm during a crime of violence. The brothers will be sentenced at a later date.
Statistics on the frequency of contempt cases in Charlotte federal court were not immediately available. Some 13,000 were filed in N.C. courts during the five years ending in 2017, according to court statistics.
Over that same period, 200 contempt citations were issued in Mecklenburg County, and those incidents appear on the rise. In 2013, the county had 33 cases. By 2017, that number had jumped to 59, court records show.
Gavin Off contributed to this story.
Michael Gordon: 704-358-5095; @MikeGordonOBS