Politics & Government

After multiple attempts, Charlotte council member Braxton Winston gets served

City Council member at large Braxton Winston gives his introductory speech during the Swearing-In Ceremony in Charlotte on Monday, December 4, 2017.
City Council member at large Braxton Winston gives his introductory speech during the Swearing-In Ceremony in Charlotte on Monday, December 4, 2017. Joshua Komer

Charlotte City Council at-large member Braxton Winston was served with divorce papers Friday morning, after the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office said it appeared Winston was avoiding service in the case.

Winston said Thursday in a statement that he and his wife are getting divorced, and asked for privacy for his family, especially his children.

“The end of a marriage is difficult, and even more so when there are children involved,” he said in the statement. “While I am a public figure, my children are not.”

Winston is a first-term Democrat who rose to prominence as one of the public faces and spokesperson for massive protests following the Keith Lamont Scott shooting in 2016. He was the second-highest vote recipient in the at-large contest, and won the support of prominent Charlotteans such as Hugh McColl Jr.

Winston’s wife, Sheena Hopkins-Winston, filed for divorce Jan. 22. Married since 2006, they have three children.

The Sheriff’s Office said they first received the request to serve Winston with divorce papers on Jan. 23.

“It appears that Mr. Winston is clearly attempting to avoid service,” Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Tonya Rivens said in a statement Thursday.

As a public official, Winston’s appearances at scheduled meetings and events are often posted publicly. He also appeared Feb. 4 on “WCCB Rising,” sitting next to Sheriff Gary McFadden for a joint interview. Despite that, sheriff’s deputies were unable to serve Winston before Friday.

Deputies made seven unsuccessful attempts to serve Winston over about three weeks, Rivens said, including at his address, an alternate address, a location where Winston was expected but didn’t show, and after Monday’s City Council meeting at the Government Center uptown.

The meeting went until almost 11 p.m. Afterwards, however, Rivens said that Winston left via an alternate exit and abandoned his car at the Government Center, where deputies had been waiting for him.

“An MCSO supervisor advised a CMPD officer as well as a city official and waited in the basement parking area next to the vehicle registered to Mr. Winston and was later told by a CMPD officer working at the CMGC (Government Center) that Mr. Winston had exited the building from another exit, thus leaving his vehicle parked at the CMGC,” Rivens said.

The Sheriff’s Office and Winston’s lawyer confirmed Friday that he had been served with papers in the civil case at 7:56 a.m.

Ely Portillo covers local and state government for the Charlotte Observer, where he has previously written about growth, crime, the airport and a five-legged puppy. He grew up in Maryland and attended Harvard University.