Their rise to power in 2010 is nothing to be proud of:
In 2010, McCollum’s prison mugshot appeared on a flier the North Carolina Republican Party mailed to voters. The ad attacked Democrats who’d supported a measure to allow death row inmates the chance to present evidence that their convictions were tainted by racial bias. It suggested that if voters supported Democrats a flood of death row inmates would be let loose.
“Meet your new neighbors,” the ad said on the front, with McCollum’s picture on the back. Next to it was a menacing description, some of the type in red capital letters: “Get to know Henry McCollum. He RAPED AND MURDERED AN 11 YEAR OLD CHILD.”
Understand, it was racist ignorance like that which resulted in Henry's and Leon's wrongful imprisonment in the first place. Also understand, after investigators were presented with strong evidence they were likely not the ones who raped and murdered an 11 year-old girl, their lack of concern for finding the real perpetrator left children in that community vulnerable. But there is a lot of shame to go around in this sad tale:
At the time, they were months away from receiving their full pardons of innocence, which came with payments of $750,000 each for their wrongful imprisonment. In October 2015, the state sent Megaro a check for $1.5 million, to be divided between McCollum and Brown. Megaro kept $500,000 of it for himself, according to a State Bar complaint.
An April 2018 story by The Marshall Project, which appeared in The New York Times, detailed McCollum and Brown’s financial plight, much of it due to high-interest loans orchestrated by Megaro, and how people they trusted had taken advantage of them. “Sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t be out here,” McCollum told Joe Neff, a Marshall Project reporter who’d spent years covering the McCollum/Brown case for The News & Observer.
Megaro had brought another lawyer into the case, which to outsiders may have appeared ripe for profit. The other lawyer’s name was Scott Brettschneider. He was from New York and, in time, he came to be known in New York City tabloids as “Mighty Whitey” for his alleged role in multiple fraud schemes involving inmates.
In May 2018, a district judge ordered Megaro off the case. He faces a long list of complaints from the N.C. State Bar, which alleges, among other things, that Megaro charged excessive fees, embezzled from the brothers and “failed to represent McCollum and Brown with competence or diligence.”
When that settlement was first announced ($750,000 each) I found it hard to grasp the state thought that was a sufficient amount for decades of wrongful imprisonment. I still do. But Megaro being able to swindle those state dollars from them, facing only a Bar complaint? That's absurd, to put it mildly.