Judge: Confederate group must return statue fund to UNC

A car drives past yard signs and a Confederate battle flag in Wake Forest, N.C., Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019. The sign on the right depicts "Silent Sam," the statue that was toppled in August and whose base was removed from a University of North Carolina quad in Chapel Hill on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed)

CHAPEL HILL — A North Carolina judge has ruled that a $2.5 million fund that was set up to maintain a Confederate statue will have to be returned to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The judge’s order is the latest step in the dismantling of a controversial deal that struck between the university and a Confederate heritage group after the statue was toppled on campus in 2018.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans had filed a lawsuit. It led to a hastily arranged deal that gave them possession of the statue known as Silent Sam and $2.5 million to maintain it.

In February, Judge Allen Baddour ruled in Orange County court that the group lacked legal standing to bring the lawsuit. He vacated the settlement.

The Confederate group will return the statue to the university, which will decide what to do with it.