Brock Harper, 45, faces charges of attacking 22-year-old Robert Kennedy with a hammer last year in the North Carolina woods near Chatuge Lake. At the time, Harper had aggravated assault charges pending against him in Georgia, but the case hadn’t gone to court amid attorney David Ralston’s repeated delays. 
Photo: Union County Sheriff’s Office
Photo: Union County Sheriff’s Office

Ralston client charged in brutal hammer attack while earlier case was on hold.

Robert Kennedy was on the ground bleeding. The man standing over him showed no mercy. He raised the hammer and struck him over and over again with the claw end, landing blows on his skull and his legs, Kennedy told the AJC in an account that parallels a North Carolina police report.

When the beating ended, the man hogtied his arms to his ankles with duct tape and zip ties, then dragged him to a ditch. Kennedy said he didn’t expect to come out of the woods alive. “It was a near-death experience,” the 22-year-old said.

Brock Harper, 45, faces charges in the attack of assault with a deadly weapon, inflicting serious injury and second-degree kidnapping.

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But Georgia court records indicate Harper might have been in jail that day had he stood trial on earlier aggravated assault charges. House Speaker David Ralston is Harper’s attorney in that case, and he repeatedly cited legislative responsibilities to put off court dates.

Court documents show Harper, who has a lengthy criminal record, hired Ralston to defend him against 2014 charges of chasing a man down in Fannin County and ramming his pickup truck with a car.

After posting bond, Harper was caught stealing lawn equipment from a Union County soccer league, records show. He didn’t hire Ralston as his main attorney for that case, and Harper soon went to court, pleaded guilty, went to prison and got paroled — all with the Fannin County assault case still pending.

Ralston delayed the Fannin case seven times — including five delays after Harper got out of prison.

House Speaker David Ralston represents Brock Harper in a 2014 aggravated assault case in Fannin County. Ralston cited legislative leave to delay court proceedings seven times before Harper was charged with beating a younger man with a hammer. 

Asked if that might have contributed to what happened in North Carolina, Ralston said in a written statement that “it is up to the prosecutor — not a defense attorney — to seek revocation of a bond and then for a judge to make a decision.” Fannin County’s district attorney, B. Alison Sosebee, did not respond to questions about why that wasn’t pursued.

Nine days after Ralston’s final delay last September, Harper asked Kennedy to take a ride, and they wound up in a wooded area near Chatuge Lake, where the attack happened, according to a Clay County, N.C., police report. Harper accused him of sleeping with his girlfriend, the report says.

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According to the record, Harper drove Kennedy back to the house where they lived with Harper’s girlfriend, his hands duct taped together. Harper and his girlfriend argued, and Harper allegedly kicked in a front door before leaving. He’s also charged with felony breaking and entering and criminal domestic trespass.

Harper is now back in jail in Union County on a probation violation for the alleged hammer attack.

The police report notes that Kennedy had red marks around his neck as if he had been choked “as well as several lacerations and marks on his head and body, some in the shape of a hammer.” His mother, Rose Mason, said he still has headaches, blurred vision and ringing in his ears from the beating.

Had the 2014 case been resolved, Mason said, Harper might not have been free to attack her son.

“It all depends on who you know and how much money you’ve got here,” she said. “(My son) didn’t deserve what he got. And it shouldn’t have happened.”


Timeline of Brock Harper’s criminal cases

Sept. 8, 2013: In Fannin County, Brock Harper allegedly tries to run a man down with a car, and when the man jumps into the bed of a pickup truck, Harper rams it, according to court records. A grand jury indicts him on two counts of aggravated assault, two counts of criminal damage to property in the second degree, reckless driving and two counts of simple assault.

June 5, 2014: In Union County, Harper is arrested and charged with stealing a lawn tractor and a mower from a soccer league. He is indicted on charges of burglary in the second degree, two counts of theft by taking, possession of tools for the commission of a crime, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

Nov. 24, 2015: Harper’s attorney, David Ralston, cites legislative leave in the Fannin County aggravated assault case, keeping it off a Dec. 1 jury trial calendar.

Dec. 18, 2015: Harper pleads guilty in Union County, both in the burglary case and a separate theft by receiving case involving a gas-powered weed eater. In those cases, court records show his primary attorney was William Keith.

Dec. 28, 2015 to Jan. 12, 2017: Harper serves time in state prison.

Aug. 23, 2016 to Aug. 23, 2018: Ralston cites legislative leave six times in the Fannin County aggravated assault case.

Sept. 1, 2018: Harper allegedly beats Robert Kennedy with a hammer and kidnaps him, according to a Clay County, N.C., police report.

Jan. 2, 2019: After being released from the North Carolina jail on a $50,000 bond, Harper is booked into the Union County jail, charged with a probation violation over the hammer attack.

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