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Jury finds Sutton not guilty of intimidating witness

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GREENVILLE, N.C. -
A Pitt County jury ruled in favor of David Sutton by returning a verdict of not guilty.

The Greenville attorney also running for District Court judge had a lot riding on the case, but the jury decided the evidence wasn't enough to convict him.

If Sutton had been convicted of any of the two felonies, it’s likely that the Bar would have revoked his license to practice as an attorney and, even more so, a chance to run for judge.

Sutton was extremely happy as he exited the courthouse wearing a grin from ear to ear. He and his wife Erika say their hard work has been vindicated and that the jury saw beyond the state's case.
    
Special prosecutors brought in to fight the case argued that when Sutton left Detective Dolenti of the Pitt County Sheriff's Office a menacing voicemail last July, he was trying to intimidate her and that is unlawful conduct.
    
But Sutton says passion shouldn't be confused with unlawful.

“I shouldn't have used that language I did to Deputy Dolenti,” commented David Sutton. “If I have the opportunity, I will apologize to her personally. I haven't had that opportunity. I'm not proud of the language I used. I just contend it wasn't a crime.”

9 On Your Side asked the state for comment. They haven't gotten back to us.

David Sutton will soon be in court again for a misdemeanor charge.

--- Previous Story ---

David Sutton represented himself throughout his three-day trial in Greenville.
    
He's accused of leaving a detective, what the state calls, an intimidating voicemail in a child abuse case in which he ordered him to drop the charges.
    
Sutton took the stand Wednesday, claiming he assumed that a trained, armed deputy would not be intimidated by his voicemail.

"This is what attorneys do. They represent people and they try to get the dropped if their client's not guilty," said David Sutton, attorney on trial.

During closing arguments Thursday morning, prosecutors said Sutton knew what he was doing, not asking the case be dismissed, but demanding it.
    
The state had to prove the threat was done in secret.
    
Sutton claims it wasn't a secret since he left a voicemail.
    
If the jury finds him guilty, Sutton would be a convicted felon and could lose his practicing license.
    
Sutton is also currently a candidate for Disctrict Court judge.

--- Previous Story ---

A trial against a Greenville attorney charged with intimidating a witness is heading to a jury Thursday. The District Attorney and David Sutton will make closing arguments first thing in the morning. 

Sutton, a Greenville attorney and a candidate for district judge, is charged with intimidating a witness. The state says it was Sutton's clear intentions to intimidate a state officer when he left Detective Nikki Dolenti a voicemail in July 2013.

It reads, "I understand that you know more than the kids Dr. and D.S.S. worker who said it wasn't abuse. So I ain't gonna beat around the bush. I don't know what you're doing. You obviously don't know what the **** you're doing, so I’m just going to whoop your *** real bad next week unless you get your **** down there and get this case dismissed. And do your job and have some sense."

Sutton, representing himself, took the stand and offered a narrative of what happened. He said this about his actions, "This is what attorneys do. They represent people and they try to get the dropped if their client's not guilty."

The district attorney seized the opportunity to grill Sutton about his ethics and the voicemail he left Dolenti. Sutton, representing Karen Waters at the time, says the state's allegations of child abuse were unfounded and he ordered Detective Dolenti to drop his client's charges. "What's really going on here is what was in her mind. I knew two things. The child's therapist said no abuse. DSS said no abuse. They didn't have a case."
     
Sutton says he assumed Dolenti, a trained armed deputy, would not interpret his voicemail as intimidation, but the district attorney argues otherwise. They say Sutton's comments violated a clear code of ethics all attorneys should follow.

On Tuesday, Dolenti took the stand and said she felt uneasy after she heard the voicemail. Sutton says he never intended for her to take it that way. "Quite frankly, some of what I said on tape, although i shouldn't have used the language that I used, and I apologized for that, is right."

The District Attorney declined to comment. She says they don't talk about ongoing cases.
Wednesday afternoon, the court rounded out the day by preparing the jury instructions. 

Sutton gave 9 On Your Side a copy of a case similar to his and argues that if you read the jury instructions, you’ll know why he’s innocent.

Sutton asked the judge to dismiss the charges several times. Judge Grant denied them all. 

A verdict is expected Thursday.

--- Previous Story ---

A Greenville attorney is back in the courtroom on charges of intimidating a state witness through a voicemail.

"I don't know what you're doing. You obviously don't know what the **** you're doing, so I'm just going to whoop your *** next week unless you get your **** down there and get this case dismissed," Sutton allegedly said to the witness.

The voicemail landed David Sutton on trial, which started Tuesday morning.
     
Sutton has been in and out of court since July, when he was first arrested.
     
In November, he was indicted for refusing a pat down at the Pitt County courthouse.
     
Despite all this legal trouble, Sutton filed for a Pitt County District Court seat on February 28.
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