2018-03-10 / Featured

Trial date set for former Person DA

By Johnny Whitfield
Courier-Times Editor

Bradsher Bradsher The trial of former Person County District Attorney Wallace Bradsher will begin May 29, the day after Memorial Day.

That was the ruling of Wake County Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway on Friday morning, after hearing a request from Bradsher to schedule the trial for late July.

The prosecutor in the case, Tom Ford, has originally asked for an April trial date.

Friday’s hearing had originally been scheduled to hear evidence on a motion by Bradsher to disqualify Ford and Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman from the case. But on Thursday afternoon, Bradsher withdrew that motion.

That cleared the way for the two sides to schedule the trial.

In asking for a July trial, Bradsher argued that Ford, the prosecuting attorney, had been able to spend the last seven months preparing for the case.

“This is his one and only case. He was brought on specifically to try this case,” Bradsher said.

By contrast, Bradsher said that, since resigning his post as district attorney, he has opened up a private practice and that he has other cases which also require his attention. He also told Ridgeway that the case file includes more than 100 witness, 10,000 pages of documents and that he continues to receive evidence from the prosecution that he needs time to study in order to prepare for the trial.

Bradsher is defending himself in the criminal case. He stands accused of six felony counts – three counts of obstruction of justice, one count each of obtaining property by false pretenses, conspiracy and aiding and abetting; and one misdemeanor – failure to carry out the duties of public office.

The charges arise out of an alleged arrangement with former Rockingham County District Attorney Craig Blitzer in which the two men agreed to hire each other’s wives to avoid ethical conflicts cited by the Administrative Office of the Courts.

According to prosecutors, Blitzer’s wife, Cindy, was hired to work in Bradsher’s office and drew pay although evidence shows she did very little work and was actually a fulltime student at South University in High Point.

During Friday’s hearing, Ford, the special prosecutor assigned to the case after Freeman asked to be taken off it, suggested that Bradsher’s proposed schedule was a backdoor attempt to get him removed from the case.

“I’m sure Mr. Bradsher isn’t asking for a late July date because he knows that my contract with the state runs out at the end of June,” Ford said.

He disputed Bradsher’s argument that he needed more time to prepare his defense.

“He’s shown a familiarity with the proceedings. He seems well-versed in the information he’s been given based on some of the questions that he’s been asking. And he’s had personal knowledge of the case since it started,” Ford said.

Motions and appeals

Friday’s actions were preceded by Ridgeway’s denial, earlier in the week, of motions by Bradsher that the judge recuse himself from the case because he is expected to be called as a witness.

That order was entered Tuesday, and on Thursday, Bradsher gave notice that he plans to appeal Ridgeway’s decision to the N.C. Court of Appeals.

In his notice of withdrawal seeking Ford’s and Freeman’s disqualification, Bradsher said he learned that Ridgeway had also issued an order that he would hear all matters related to the case. In that filing, Bradsher said courthouse rules prohibit defendants from seeking delays as a way of “judge shopping” but he said those same rules should also prohibit judges from “defendant shopping.”

“The defendant in this case has an absolute and substantial right to equal protection of the law and to not be singled out; which is at the very heart of the truth of ‘impartiality,’” Bradsher wrote.

He said Ridgeway’s ruling and his decision to hear all matters related to the case put Bradsher in a difficult situation.

“The defendant is now put in a position of either putting on evidence in front of a judge who will be called as a witness in his case and therefore should be disqualified; the effect of which gives the prosecutor a strong and stronger argument with the trial judge that Judge Ridgeway should not be allowed to testify… or the defendant must abandon substantial rights by withdrawing the remaining motions,” Bradsher wrote.

Ridgeway told both parties to file any new motions in the case by May 1 so they could be ruled on in time for the trial to begin. Ford said he expected jury selection and the trial to take as much as two weeks.

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