Bank Run By Taylor Settles Suit

Agreement Reached With Victims’ Kin

Posted September 7, 2004 at 6:12pm

A bank owned and operated by Rep. Charles Taylor (R-N.C.) has settled a lawsuit brought by the children of a South Carolina couple who were slain during a gruesome robbery in May 2003.

Terms of the settlement were sealed by a South Carolina court, and neither side would comment on the agreement.

The settlement, reached late last month, means that Taylor, the board chairman of Blue Ridge Savings Bank, will not face a lawsuit and trial on questions about the level of security provided for a branch office housed in a mobile home trailer in an isolated area of Greer, S.C.

James and Margaret Barnes were gunned down May 16, 2003, shortly after they entered the trailer. Sylvia Holtzclaw, the sole bank teller on duty, also was killed. The case, one of the deadliest bank robberies in recent U.S. history, remains unsolved with few clues.

Elizabeth Davis and her two siblings sued Blue Ridge earlier this year contending that the bank failed to provide security for bank customers. The bank, in court filings, denied the allegations of lax security.

In July, Roll Call reported that a federal judge granted permission for the family to name Taylor and the other bank directors as defendants in the wrongful death lawsuit after testimony was given about an allegedly defective lock and door on the trailer. In addition, an antiquated VCR-type camera security system provided little information because the videotape was missing, either taken by the killers or simply not loaded by bank employees.

The potential wrongful death lawsuit against Taylor threatened to put a renewed spotlight on the extensive business dealings of the seven-term lawmaker, who actively manages several business operations while serving as a full-time Member despite general prohibitions against such dual roles.

But the bank and the family reached a confidential deal before an amended lawsuit could be filed.

U.S. District Judge Henry Herlong ordered that the case be sent to state court on Aug. 23 after a settlement was reached by the two sides. A hearing on the settlement in a state probate court was sealed along with the terms of the settlement.

Val Stieglitz, the lead attorney for the family, said he could not discuss the terms of the agreement. He said that the terms of the settlement cover the bank, Taylor and all of the directors, as well as the contractor who installed the security equipment.

An attorney for Blue Ridge Savings Bank did not return phone messages.

The family of Holtzclaw, the bank teller who was killed, appears to be barred under South Carolina law from initiating a lawsuit because the state does not allow lawsuits by employees against employers.